Cosmic American Music Reviews #10 Album Of 2011: Wilco – The Whole Love

Spotify link: Wilco – The Whole Love

Pitchfork:  6.9/10

The best thing about The Whole Love, Wilco’s adventurous, elliptical eighth LP, is the ease with which they’ve recaptured some of that old unpredictability: From Being There through A Ghost Is Born, the band’s best work has always perched itself upon the edge of traditionalism and experimentation, and The Whole Love is the first of their albums in years not to shy away from such risks…

It took Jeff Tweedy years to get comfortable with his place in Uncle Tupelo, and a few more to truly settle into Wilco’s first act. After a few years of constant sonic flux and personnel shifts, Sky Blue Sky and Wilco (The Album) found the band feeling more resolved than ever, a consistent lineup settling into what seemed increasingly like a signature sound. But Wilco’s always seemed their most creatively surefooted atop uneven ground. So the weird, winsome Whole Love is certainly Wilco’s least consistent LP in a while, but inconsistency has its own rewards. At its best, The Whole Love finds Wilco casting aside the caution, reveling in their own contradictions.

Paste Magazine:  8.5/10

The Whole Love rewards patient listening, which isn’t exactly fashionable in 2011. In some ways, it’s the black sheep of their catalog—not as instantly catchy, not as blatantly weird, lacking an obvious sonic identity compared to their other works. Maybe they’ve run out of creative obstacles. Oh, well. It’s the sound of Wilco out to prove nothing, driven only by their desire to craft great songs. In that regard, they’ve succeeded from start to finish—given enough breathing room and a bit of perspective, The Whole Love reveals itself as their finest album since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

The Guardian:  3/5

The Whole Love, then, is a nuanced, feel-good album full of open-endedness, laced with the kinds of observations only instruments can make fluently. It may not rank among Wilco’s boldest works. It could have done with more wig-outs. But it captures the art of the almost with both hands.

Los Angeles Times:

Not so “The Whole Love,” a 12-song effort that’s way more “Summerteeth” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” than more recent efforts: The band is having fun not only with sound but with structure, without sacrificing catchiness. Nearly every song contains some tangential surprise, odd hook, sonic back flip or midsong redefinition. The first single, “I Might,” sounds like ? and the Mysterians covering Radiohead and is the closest thing to a simple rock song on the record (rivaled by “Dawned on Me,” which suggests Electric Light Orchestra). “Sunloathe” is a surreal, psychedelic piano ballad carried forward by Kotche’s miscellaneous noise and layers of intricate countermelodies. “Standing O” sounds stolen from Elvis Costello’s “This Year’s Model.”

Aquarium Drunkard:

There’s a strange strength that permeates The Whole Love, even in its darkest moments. It’s the feeling of having come through a long something, and that feeling is only palpable when the length and breadth and pain of that something is fully acknowledged. We aged instantly and most of us have spent the past past ten years trying to understand what exactly just happened to a world that we thought we had under control. “I am the driver at the wheel of the horror,” Tweedy sings in “Born Alone.” “Mine eyes’ deceiving glory / I was born to die alone.” The whole of The Whole Love comes down to the rejection of that one adjective, to the steady crushing of that one flattering deception. It is the question to which Mavis Staples’ Tweedy-penned song from 2010 is the answer: You are not alone.

Popmatters:  7/10

So while some had started talking like the story of Wilco has been written, like its best days are behind it, The Whole Love proves the band is still moving forward, still changing, even if it’s not in the lofty ways we expect it to. This isn’t a return to form, nor is it an out-and-out reinvention. It’s just the new Wilco album, and like all new Wilco albums, it doesn’t sound much like what came before it. This is what makes them one of the most fascinating bands working, and The Whole Love is a new, vital shard in their splintered discography.

Prettymuchamazing:  A-

Jeff Tweedy is still trying to break your heart, and he tears it asunder with hushed brevity on “Sunloathe,” “Black Moon,” and “Open Mind,” even as he continues his (perhaps) hopeless quest for self-exorcism (“Born Alone”). The Whole Love is a quintessential Wilco album, which means it exists mostly in slow-tempo and drags on a bit too long. But love demands you forgive its failings, and The Whole Love does just that. Totally.

Spin Magazine8/10

Amiably skronky, seven-minute kitchen-sink opener “Art of Almost” aside, there is a concerted effort to mothball the experimental tangents of recent years in favor of laconic twang, organ-driven garage pop, and tempered balladry. This is not to say there aren’t moments of dissonance — “I kill my memories with a cheap disease,” goes the psych-lite lament “Sunloathe” — but now Tweedy’s showing off his journal, not his record collection. Dad’s never cooler than when he’s not trying to be.

AVClub:  B,62309/

As enjoyable as The Whole Love is—and it’s an appreciable improvement over the wan Wilco—it still has some of its predecessor’s slight, low-stakes feel. The Whole Love is an album of reliable, occasionally exceptional, but mostly just solid pleasures from a very good band that doesn’t seem interested in doing the heavy lifting it takes to be great. Wilco’s early records seemed like the product of painful deliberation and unmitigated tension, a real life-or-death proposition; The Whole Love breezes by like a sunny Saturday afternoon among best friends. Now that Wilco has finally found its comfort zone, it might be time to venture elsewhere for a change. 





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