By Devon Hannan, Features Editor
Key Tracks: “If I Ever Was A Child,” “Locator,” “Just Say Goodbye”
It’s not shoegaze, and it’s definitely not disco. But of course, ACRN’s reviewing it – So here it is, Wilco’s Schmilco.
Recorded at the same time as their last record Star Wars, Schmilco takes a step back from the loud, amped up rock essence and trades it in for what may be Wilco’s most folky angle yet. While Schmilco doesn’t necessarily provide anything new and exciting for the rest of the music world, it does, however give Jeff Tweedy a platform outside of his recent post-modern rock tendency. Schmilco, although simple, proves to be some of Wilco’s best work in over a decade.
Somewhere in between personal endearment and vague generalization, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy grasps for a generic, pop, songwriting method. Despite this, the first few tracks on the album are an absolute package of cute, nostalgic and downright angsty. For example, the tracks “Normal American Kids” and “If I Ever Was a Child” draw in on the appeal of counterculture childhood, but also the demise of remembrance in said childhood through years of togetherness coming undone at once. While these tracks are masterfully crafted, they also give the listener a false hope that the rest of the album will carry on that personable relationship, whereas it unfortunately trails off into easily forgettable tracks without dense subject matter.
That being said, this would all be fine and dandy if Tweedy had more interesting instrumentals to back up his formulaic composition. Much of the album is spent wishing for something a little bit more. While Wilco does incorporate some form of “bells and whistles” into almost every track, the build is often missing among ringing steel guitar and motionless riffs. “Locator” finally gives the listener some intense guitar work to relieve them of quiet, and what might even be considered typical, repetition. “Quarters” also reaches just a little further with an offbeat percussion element that adds just the right amount of zest to to make things interesting.
Tracks like “Shrug and Destroy” reflect the album’s overall monotone but not entirely tedious nature. This also may resonate in the fact that most songs on the album are under the three-minute mark, which instead gives it an element of conciseness.
At first listen, Schmilco seems like a well thought out, lyrically driven acoustic album. As it progresses, however, it only proves that the potential is there. Some tracks hit incredibly close to home and are absolutely fantastic, while others are dissonant but don’t quite fall flat enough to be called “bad” or “unappealing.” In fact, Wilco’s Schmilco is quite pleasant and lovely for easy listening.