Last year I discovered something about myself: I’m not only a latent Wilco fan, but I also didn’t know how to organize my thoughts well. That’s all besides the point however, except for the part where I became a fan of Wilco with their stellar ninth studio album, Star Wars (not The Force Awakens, of course, but Wilco’s record that they named Star Wars for apparently, no reason; though I have my thoughts). Like these sentences, Wilco’s album are also getting pretty meta. Their new record, tenth overall, is (no lie) called Schmilco. It’s as equally serious as it is sarcastic. Jeff Tweedy, the frontman and principle songwriter recently poked fun at the record’s title on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Last year’s “Magnetized” was one of my favorite songs of the year. Star Wars had a feel of deep fuzz and nostalgia akin to Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, but Schmilco doesn’t follow any sort of sound progression from there. If anything it goes back to the days of Wilco folk, but it’s not a regression. It fits with the theme of Schmilco: a man approaching his 50’s reflecting back to his childhood. The only difference is how blatantly dark the lyrics are.
Songs like “If I Ever Was a Child,” “Cry All Day,” “Happiness,” and the anti-anthem “We Aren’t the World,” go to some pretty interesting places lyrically, but also some pretty original places. For how outwardly depressing some of the songs are however, they’re decent Wilco songs. Like I said, it’s serious to sarcastic contradictions make the record as much Wilco as it is “Schmilco.” Some tracks fall short, like the discordant “Common Sense” (apparently nothing with that name can be as successful as they should), but that’s only because of its miniature decent into god knows what, sounding like they just didn’t know what that song was at all. Nonetheless, Jeff Tweedy is an amazing songwriting, and as depressing of some Schmilco can get, it’s still a warm record. “So sad it’s nothing,” he remarks, “happiness depends on who you blame.”