New Wilco Album – Innovative or Insufficient?

New Wilco Album - Innovative or Insufficient?

Xavier Maier, Herald Editor

The problem that the majority of modern music faces today consists of retention. That’s not to say bands are progressing in a bad way, or that the only good music is in the past. Bands shouldn’t just regress back to the way music was in the ‘70s, although a lot of music from that era is awesome. The retention I’m addressing is the unique sound that each band has. It seems that as time progresses, many bands move further and further away from the sound and style that made them famous.

Progress is good, sure, but as soon as bands give up their distinctiveness to fit in with the demand of pop culture, they also give up true expression. The sincerity and purpose with which their original sound hails from is often altered to keep up with the tastes of modern pop music, which is not a bad genre in itself. However, the assimilation of other types of music into a pop music sound is a very negative thing. It results in a massive decrease in the variety of a culture that should have the most variation: music.

Wilco, an alternative-rock band, suffered from this on a subtle level in their album “Star Wars.” It was not as well liked as their other albums because the sound changed; it did not sound like Wilco. It didn’t necessarily sound like pop music, but there was definitely a change for the worse in the sound that decreased the complexity of their songwriting capability compared to their previous albums, as well as just having a generally foreign sound to Wilco listeners.

Last week, they released their new album, “Schmilco.” It has only been fourteen months since “Star Wars” came out, and it’s unusual for bands to release albums so close together, so I was skeptical. It brings me joy to report that “Schmilco” is a welcome return to the Wilco that fans are used to. Many of the sounds and techniques used in “Star Wars” are still present, but they are implemented in a way that keeps complexity and invention more intact. The lyrics have also returned to the impeccable quality of Wilco’s previous albums, a trait that “Star Wars” slightly lacked.

Overall, “Schmilco” is an innovative and original album, which is refreshing to see in a day and age where a lot of music is being assimilated into one style. By reminding us that there are still bands out there who know what it means to have identity, Wilco once again has reaffirmed their special place in my heart.