Last Thursday Wilco returned to the world of studio music with their latest album, Star Wars (named for an obscure science fiction film from the ’70s rather than the Reagan-era program). Released without any fanfare or promotional lead up, the album was made available on Wilco’s site for free (for the next month) and is currently streaming on all of the major services.
“EKG,” the album’s opening track, sets the tone for what’s to come with its noisy guitars. The song transitions into “More…,” which seems placed to remind the listener that you are, in fact, listening to a Wilco album. The guitars are fuzzy, but they’re playing distinct riffs and drop out for the chorus. That is until a wave of noise overtakes the track. “Random Name Generator” is heavy on the guitar riffs, contributing to the feeling that this is Wilco’s take on a rock record.
Tracks like the beautiful album centerpiece “You Satellite” pull the rug out from under that idea. Rather than come galloping out, the song is a slow burn that gradually builds towards a wall of noise. Closing track “Magnetized” moves further away from the rock vibe. The track neither gallops nor burns so much as saunters through its 3:40.
Wilco have come back to the study with the confidence and clarity of a group of their pedigree. Star Wars is the sound of a band at ease with itself, doing what it does best. The more rock influences meld beautifully into Jeff Tweedy’s pop sensibilities and the band’s noisier side.