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Ode To Joy by Wilco - Album Review

During my first listen to the eleventh studio from Wilco my initial thought was of the opening moments of the 1997 Neil Young and Crazy Horse live album "Year Of The Horse".
That double disc set opens with an audience member shouting out "they all sound the same", to which Neil replies "it's all one song". By the time the mid point of "Quiet Amplifier" had arrived, I was beginning to think the same thing of "Ode To Joy". "Ode To Sleep" more like!
However, what changed my mind a little was playing the album over dinner last night and seeing that Mrs Powderfingerspeaks was humming along to the songs, even during that soporific four song start. After a few more listens, I started to appreciate the delicate melodies within those initial songs. I had feared that much like their recent Barrowlands show, (full review here) which opened with the first two songs from this album, it was a slow starter and only came to life on "Everybody Hides".

Whilst this album is far from perfect, and I have a number of "reservations", if you'll forgive the pun, I have come to enjoy it more than either of its two immediate predecessors, "Schmilco" and "Star Wars".

The first of those issues is the use of the musicians. They are all excellent players, but drummer Glenn Kotche in particular seems to be playing pretty much the same floor-tom heavy patterns throughout, which is perhaps a reflection of the songs Jeff Tweedy has written here. Kotche is a superb drummer, and like the rest of the band to a lesser degree, is massively underutilised. I understand this maybe the artistic vision they wanted to present, but where is the band of "Shot In The Arm", "I'm The Man Who Loves You", "Heavy Metal Drummer" or "Spiders (Kidsmoke)", never mind the Americana band I first fell in love with twenty plus years ago?

The highlights are the aforementioned "Everybody Hides", "White Wooden Crosses" and "Love Is Everywhere (Beware)", whereas "Quiet Amplifier", "Citizens" and "We Were Lucky" are all forgettable. I think the time has come where the next Wilco album will be stream first rather than purchase first. That same Barrowlands show showed that they can still rock if they want to, I hope they feel the need to capture that energy again on record again in the future.
Once the "Ode To Joy" tour wraps up I hope the band do nothing but listen to George Jones and the Rolling Stones for six months before recording their next album. Sometimes you have to go back to go forwards. Maybe then we'll get something more like this.....

"You know where the bodies are buried, but you can't remember where you buried the mines..."

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