WILCO – SCHMILCO (ANTI/Warner)
Reviewed by By Nick Argyriou
Ten records down the track and the Chicago natives continue to evolve. From the carefree alt-country of ’90s releases, A.M., Being There and Summerteeth, to the 2000s period that witnessed the genius Yankee Hotel Foxtrot plus the band’s panacea in A Ghost is Born, Jeff Tweedy and co have never really made a mess of a melody between 2007-2015, either, but last year’s whacked Star Wars hit some raw nerves.
Schmilco is the binary opposite of the jarring Star Wars. It’s a digital vs analogue battle with Schmilco all wrapped up in a wave of softened vibes, light years from the riotous Star Wars in sound and even genre.
Warbling electric guitars, a hushed Tweedy vocal, miscellaneous twang and linear drums from Glenn Kotche (and Spencer Tweedy) making Schmilco equal parts dad-rock and pastoral chill. Songs average around the three-minute mark with Nels Cline his most krautrock on ‘Common Sense’ and considerably restrained everywhere else across the record.
Tweedy is more interested in exploring a soundtrack to an arvo nap here with low-key narratives and country-pop beats the hero. ‘Someone to Lose’ and ‘Happiness’ are bonafide Beatles odes while ‘Quarters’ is desolate and damned as Tweedy recalls tending bar at his grandfather’s watering hole.
“You kept quarters in your shirt/But I never could just have them/You always made me sweep around every flying floozy/Under booths and bums asleep”, murmurs Tweedy. So sentiment is clearly up and down on Schmilco as the apathetic ‘Shrug and Destroy’ and ‘We Aren’t the World (Safety Girl)’ glide in before the equally resigned closer, ‘Just Say Goodbye’ rounds out a reflective and mostly dour 36-minute exploration into a surly snapshot of Tweedy’s youth.
From dabbling in depression (‘Cry All Day’), getting high to escape being normal (‘Normal American Kids’) and growing up too quickly (If I Ever Was a Child’), Schmilco is defined by confessional writing and is pretty damn heartbreaking on the whole – a record you just want to give a big old long hug and not say a word while doing it.