It’s ironic that as the U.S. collectively shits the bed, Wilco — the band that built a career on articulating modern American angst — hasn’t sounded this upbeat in a decade. Coupled with the feather-light Sky Blue Sky, Wilcologists may call this the group’s “rose period.” You could also call it what it is: frontman Jeff Tweedy is pretty much through making grand statements in favor of jamming out with his band. Unfortunately, said jams — and (The Album) as a whole — just can’t compete with their best work.
Things get off to a promising start with the deliciously meta “Wilco (The Song),” and the epic “One Wing” and murder-fantasy “Bull Black Nova” are obvious highlights. But not even a Feist cameo can save the pleasant-but-limp “You and I,” and the rest of the album kills time between catchy dad-rock (scolding lyrics like “Come on, children, you’re acting like children” are, like, the definition of dad-rock) and songs that are good-enough yet ultimately forgettable. The band that once successfully tried breaking our hearts with cross-genre experiments has seemingly settled for a smoother road, but at least Tweedy — who famously struggled with panic attacks and pill addiction — sounds happy. The guys in Wilco are no longer killing themselves to reinvent the wheel; they’re simply content to enjoy the rest of the ride.