While there’s probably less enduring material here for Tweedy’s hardcore fans to pore over for years to come, ‘Schmilco’ is a great entry point for newcomers looking for a way into a discography stretching back to 1995.
by Ollie Rankine
Though the reasons will vary, we can all, at least, relate to one point in life where some degree of social alienation has been accommodated at the centre of our emotions. After all, who didn’t feel like they were ‘complicated’ during some banal excuse of a teenage meltdown amidst a particularly hormonal stage of adolescence? Though times like these may have seemed emotionally challenging, it provided an ideal opportunity to connect with the music that best spoke the words of your inner turmoil. Practically answering the prayers of all the pot-smoking misfits across America, Chicago alt-country legends Wilco’s 10th album Schmilco provides us with an understanding shoulder to cry on.
Following on from the fuzzy, psychedelic glam that featured on last year’s Star Wars, Wilco have surprisingly revamped their sound into a collection of sepia-toned, folk songs – all of which parading a grouchy demeanour. With the days of his youth a long way behind him, 49-year-old frontman Jeff Tweedy stoically revisits his days battling anxiety and on a seemly unreachable quest for approval. He candidly regales tales of being “high behind the garden shed” (‘Normal American Kids’) and being swallowed by his deepest sentiments whilst performing at open mic nights (‘Cry All Day’). Although previously, Tweedy’s lyrically style has often taken an abstractive aesthetic, his narrative on Schmilco leaves little to interpretation whilst poignantly stimulating our inner most insecurities.
Schmilco is also suitably creative in terms of musical structure. Lazily lamenting stories of heartbreak and sadness through a clever use of bluesy arrangements and laid-back guitar grooves, Schmilco rarely fails in tweaking the appropriate heartstrings. On occasion, similar elements of static heard on Star Wars colours the album’s sonic background, particularly during ‘Locator’. Delicately shimmering melodies feature on tracks, ‘We Aren’t The World (Safety Girl)’ and ‘Someone To Lose’ whilst an opposing display of unhinged guitar work on ‘Common Sense’ provides Schmilco with a subtle but unsettling character.
Compared to cryptic masterpieces from Wilco’s past like Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, there’s probably less enduring material here for Tweedy’s hardcore fans to mull and pore over for years to come. However, Schmilco will therefore rank as one of Wilco’s most accessible records, a great entry point for newcomers looking for a way into a discography stretching back to 1995. It’s a strange but undeniably vivid time portal back to his youth, and Tweedy’s depiction of his own struggles is not only reassuringly empathetic and relatable, but also a unique window into the memories of hardship from the perspective of a now older and wiser being. (8/10)
Listen to Schmilco here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, dBpm, Jeff Tweedy, Ollie Rankine, review, Schmilco, Wilco
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