Sky Blue Sky


Nonesuch, 2007

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Few bands of the past few years have defied convention as much as Jeff Tweedy and Wilco. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has been labeled as a summative record of the early 21st century and A Ghost Is Born continued that experimentation even further.

Sky Blue Sky sees a complete reversal of that progressive nature from the past few Wilco records. Instead, Tweedy and Co. have reached further back within their own history and tried to recapture some of the early alt-country raise that first launched them onto the national stage. For the most part, this regression works, but unfortunately the result is not as satisfying as the previous two albums.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In the intervening period between A Ghost Is Born and Sky Blue Sky, Wilco picked up a few band members. Chief among them is Nels Cline, the guitarist who single-handedly drives this album in the moments when it threatens to bore. Whether it is his subdued playing on the opening track “Either Way” or his incredibly melodic work on “Impossible Germany,” Cline’s addition to the band does make it stronger overall.

One wonders what made Tweedy shift approaches with Sky Blue Sky; had he simply run out of ideas? Expectations for Wilco to continue pushing boundaries must have been high, so the fact things are scaled back should not come as a surprise. From a stylistic and lyrical standpoint, nothing is new here, though that should be read as a condemnation of the music itself.

Comparisons between this record and The Eagles have been made in the various review outlets, and truth be told they aren’t off base. Tweedy channels Don Henley at various points, and the country-rock made so popular by The Eagles definitely makes appearances here. In many ways, a song like “White Light” is a glorious trip through Memory Lane.

The problem that mainly overtakes Sky Blue Sky is quite simple; the songs toward the end aren’t that good. Wilco fans probably won’t retrain strong memories from the second half of the disc, with a few minor exceptions. “Walken” is a rare number that seems to capture a rather festive mood from the band; they sound like they are genuinely having fun, which is rare indeed.

At this juncture, one has to question where Wilco is heading. Are they retreating back to the band they once were, making great records like Summerteeth? Or, are they going to once again strap on the boxing gloves, get back in the ring and try to craft another knockout progressive album that makes critics drool? Either way, the result will be pleasing.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2007 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Nonesuch, and is used for informational purposes only.