Sky Blue Sky has taught me an important lesson: Knee-jerk reactions are just that, my own included.
I was pretty quick to jump on the Wilco bashing when I heard the first few leaked tracks. Then I bought a vinyl copy (180-gram, free CD included!), and it’s about the only album I’ve listened to consistently the past few weeks.
Looking back, I did the same with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, thinking it was a little too weird for me. And now we’re turning our backs on Jeff Tweedy for being a little too … well, normal. If nothing else, Sky Blue Sky deserved a more patient listen, more time.
Granted, some of the lyrics are goofy (“I trust no emotion/I believe in locomotion” and just about all of Hate it Here) and Glenn Kotche is terribly underutilized as a percussionist (listen to I Am Trying to Break Your Heart to hear the difference). Yet there’s a striking sense of clarity on the record. At first, I was worried Nels Cline’s lovemaking to his guitar would weigh down the record. But I’ve even grown to appreciate a little extended solo. (The solo on Impossible Germany “is tits,” was how a friend put it.)
If Yankee Hotel was a complicated listen for its weird tendencies, then Sky Blue Sky is just as compelling for its cleaned-up edges. I like Jeff Tweedy’s versatility. I like that probably a lot of people expected another record in the vein of Yankee Hotel and A Ghost is Born. And that Sky Blue Sky’s almost disarming normalcy causes such unease. So Tweedy’s so-called passive approach must be at fault here and not our constricted expectations.
Really, listen to it again.
Wilco | You Are My Face
9 thoughts on “Wilco: Sky Blue Sky”
As I found last night, this album works wonderfully with a relaxed mood and a nice adult beverage. But to bash on “Hate it Here”…man, I totally dig that song. To me, it’s kind of a funny/sad tune because the narrator is either oblivious to the reality of the situation he’s in…he’s been dumped OR he’s aware but in a hazy sort of denial. Sometimes you have to move beyond the words to the feelings and I think Sky Blue Sky is that sort of album. Actually I think YHF was too but they simply have a different sonic tone/quality/feel.
You are right, however, that Glenn Kotche is underutilized but maybe it’s so they can give him a few songs in the live setlist to take a breather.
Oh, and the solo in “Impossible Germany” is indeed the “TITS.”
I think Kotche’s work on the album is a bit deceptive. With repeated listens, you start to really pick up on own “tits” moments, esp on “Hate it Here” and “Shake it Off” and “Walken”.
Hey – been checking out your blog lately, and I think you make some interesting points on SBS. I don’t think it’s growing on me the way you describe though – in fact I find myself getting really bored with a bunch of the songs – “Please Be Patient” for one, and also “Side w/ Seeds”. I agreee that Tweedy is very versatile – it’s like he can make a really good record in almost any genre, style, whatever…I hope I re-warm up to SBS because I liked it quite a bit at first.
I think they’ve done a great work. They came here to play live, but I missed them. Another time I hope.
Thanks for posting this -was amazed just how much coverage this album had got, but want to hear it without prejudice. Keep up the good work!
I just find it pretty boring. If they would cut out tracks 4-9 (with the exception of Hate it Here), it would be a much more compelling album. So maybe it’s just the sequencing. The momentum just gets killed in the middle.
I love SBS. Side w/ the Seeds is one of my favorite song on the albumn. Lyrically its great. “nobody wins but the thieves, so why side with anything”. I’ve never drank from an aquarium or assassined down an avenue, but I have wondered what I will do when I run out of lawn to mow. Musically its complex, just listen to poly-rhythmic dueling guitars in “Side” Nels and Jeff start by playing opposing 4/4 riffs, In the second phrase Jeff plays a 3/4 rhythm under the 4/4. The first thing I noticed about this record (and it made me go back and listen to all their previous) is how great Stirratt’s bass playing is. He really holds it together and has become an incredible musician over the years. I am thankful that “that’s the thanks I get” didn’t make the cut.
When’s the next “loose fur” project?