Wilco – Sky blue sky

Wilco, like the flaming lips and radio head, are one of those bands that just seem to get better and constantly produce better and better albums. From humble alt-country beginnings they grew into the band that made the seminal ‘Yankee hotel foxtrot’ a beast of a record, experimental, exciting and brilliant. Just when you thought they couldn’t get any better they released ‘a ghost is born’ followed by a chance to hear tracks from them all on double live record ‘kicking a television’ which proved that they were not just masters of the studio but could cut it on the stage, even managing the seemingly impossible by recreating some of the more complicated songs live. Now they are back and they have done it again. Sky blue sky is a corker, I didn’t get it at first, it’s a real grower and it took me a couple of listens but now it just gets better the more I hear it. Less avant garde and experimental than ‘a ghost…’ it instead goes for perfectly formed songs and strong musical arrangement. As I listen I can see them in my mind all in the studio with guitars, drums and organs working in unison as if one unit but with so many different aspects, I am reminded of ‘The band’ in their heyday but with less beards and in that way the music is almost gentlemanly with each knowing they must work together for each composition to be brilliant but also each getting a chance to shine whether it be a guitar or organ solo. ‘Oh dear boy you go ahead old chap, it is your turn’. Jeff Tweedy’s voice is beautifully painful and cracked and the lyrics are pure poetry. Although clocking in at just under an hour it still feels too short and every time I reach the end I have to stop myself putting it on again straight away, I don’t want to overplay it; I want a relationship with this record for years to come because it is that good. I know that various band members are in other side-projects and I wonder if working on other stuff keeps them fresh and is how they can come back to Wilco and make a record like sky blue, truly another American classic.

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