There was a time in the mid to late 90s when I thought that Wilco were probably the best band on the planet. This was in no small part due to the 1996 release Being There and 1999's Summerteeth.
After the sacking of Jay Bennett they became to move on from their alt country roots - gradually at first and then more rapidly. It took me a long time to come to terms with anything after Yankee Hotel Foxtrot although more recently I have picked up one or two of their later albums and explored them with a more open mind to see what I have been missing.
I can usually find one or two songs that I like but struggle with the whole album. All that has changed, however, with the release of their latest album Cruel Country earlier this year on their own dBpm label.
It is a monster double album with 21 tracks over 77 minutes,. Described on their Bandcamp page as the band's exploration of the genre they have often been defined by but, until now, have not fully embraced.
Pitchfork give it a score of 7.2 saying that Wilco embrace a simple, buoyant approach that hearkens back to Jeff Tweedy’s earliest work. They go on to describe Cruel Country as an album title that cuts two ways, the “country” referring either to a nation or a musical genre. The duality is deliberate, as Wilco are grappling not only with America's tumultuous present but also the band’s fraught legacy with country music.
It's not clear whether this album is a one off or whether they will revert back to releasing more stuff like this. Hopefully the latter please as this one is a belter.
More of this please