Four years since Wilco’s last release, it seems the hiatus had them working on solo side projects. Frontman and vocalist Jeff Tweedy released a solo record with his son, Bass Guitarist John Stirratt & Pat Sonsone released The Autumn Defense’s fifth record, Drummer Glenn Kotche released his third album Adventureland, Nels Cline played some jazz guitar with his group The Nels Cline Singers, a jazz band composed of zero vocalists, and Mikael Jorgenson… well I don’t know what Mikael Jorgenson does outside of Wilco.
Originally, he was actually outside of Wilco, sitting offstage and triggering the samples and sound effects on their tour for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Playing keyboards and eventually getting himself of stage with them, Jeff Tweedy talks about Mikael’s early days saying that he, “was a very proficient piano player that could do a lot more than we were using him for.” He goes on saying that “at that point, he started becoming a full-fledged member of the band, contributing parts to the new songs and even handling more of the nuts and bolts architecture of the older songs.” As for me, I don’t know how much Mikael Jorgenson actually does in Wilco, other than the sampling and their obviously not-from-a-guitar noises, but nonetheless, I’m sure he’s a great guy to have around and I know for a fact that he’s crazy on that sampler.
Anyway… ditching any folk still left within them, Wilco turns up the fuzz and distortion akin to Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One or I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. Kitten and flowers album cover aside, this isn’t a cutesy Wilco record like A.M. and other early Wilco records were, but instead more full of distorted guitar sound walls.
As for the record name, Star Wars, we don’t have an interview with Tweedy or the band yet to tell us why such a name was chosen for this particular release. My guess for naming the record Star Wars is both that, like the film franchise, it gives off a sense of nostalgia, like the classic distorted guitar sound, or because like the return of the Star Wars franchise, it’s exciting that a new record is out and Wilco is back.
Fuzz is the prominent tone here on Star Wars, and the production of it never gets in the way or too screechy from feedback. It’s well welcomed, which is important for distortion and a record that relies heavily on its use. But although discordant album opener, “EKG,” might seem like a statement towards Wilco’s new direction, there’s still plenty of old Wilco influence to go around. “Taste the Ceiling” could be on any of their previous records, especially Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and the end of “Where Do I Begin,” definitely has some Ratatat influence in there, if not, they got that guitar tone and backwards style drums by sheer coincidence somehow. In the end however, “Magnetized” is a fantastic song and album closer, and Star Wars is a well welcomed return for Wilco in 2015.