Wilco – Sky Blue Sky

Sky Blue Sky (2007)


1. Either Way 2. You Are My Face 3. Impossible Germany 4. Sky Blue Sky 5. Side With The Seeds 6. Shake It Off 7. Please Be Patient With Me 8. Hate It Here 9. Leave Me (Like You Found Me) 10. Walken 11. What Light 12. On And On And On


So this is the point in history when the people rose up and turned on Wilco. It wasn’t entirely fair, and I’m inclined to think that the presence of a couple of mind-numbingly bland, adult contemporary pieces of filler and a few questionable lyrical turns of phrase tended to make people think that Sky Blue Sky was a lot worse than it actually is. Because there is quite a bit of very strong, expertly executed material here. But it’s hard to not be at least a little disconcerted by this record. It’s just sort of baffling that a band that had risen to prominence by being sort of weird, and that had consolidated itself with a new lineup so stacked with talent and resources that they could’ve done pretty much anything they wanted to, would end slipping into the sort of easy listening, early 70s country rock groove that they do on SBS.

Certainly, no previous Wilco lineup could have conceivably made an album so chock full of dazzling instrumental competency as is on display here, and the record doesn’t feel like regression. But it does feel like the worst possible antithesis to regression… getting old. And it’s obvious that there’s something wrong right off the bat. Wilco had started out albums with slow songs before, but “Either Way” is something else entirely… squeaky clean, laaaaaaiiiiiiiid back guitar arpeggios, a slow, totally whitewashed groove, head-scratchingly simplistic, sentimental lyrics like “Maybe you love me/Maybe you don’t,” even a syrupy string section. If I were a Wilco fan waiting for the next Yankee Hotel Foxtrot back in ’07, by the time Cline got around to his smooth, Kenny G style solo, I’d be about ready to let out one of these.

Fortunately, “Either Way” is one of the boringest songs on the album, although there are even boringer ones – “Please Be Patient With Me” and “Leave Me (Like You Found Me)” are so devoid of any life, soul, energy, or redeeming melodic quality that they make me want to kick myself in the balls just to make sure that they’re still there. But really, those three and the dunderheaded “Shake It Off” are the only weak tracks on the album. Being There had at least that many skip button-worthy tracks. So why does Sky Blue Sky inspire such vitriol? I assume it’s because Tweedy appears to have completely given up on pursuing new sonic ground, instead making music that is blatantly evocative of old 60s and 70s favorites, and doing it in a really laid back, smooth-edged way. Hence the term “dad rock” (which I maintain is stupid and snide. What is “rock” if not “dad rock?” Are the Stones or Robert Plant “grandpa rock?”). This apparent laziness manifests itself most heinously in some of the lyrics penned by the Tweedster, who, after having mastered the art of the mumbled, introspective obscureist couplet, has taken a turn for the barefaced and literal. This isn’t a bad thing all the time; in fact, I find myself quite amused by his witty story about a guy who tries to get over a breakup by submerging himself in mundane household chores in the blue-eyed soul “Hate It Here,” and touched by his ruminations on a childhood memory in the mellow country tune “Sky Blue Sky.” However, I can’t say the same for the moronic, obviously made up in five seconds rhyming of the goofily jaunty “Walken” or the hippy-dippy “be yourself” sentiments of the strum-along “What Light,” which I wouldn’t be surprised to discover was actually composed by Tweedy and a class of 3rd graders. It’s moments like these that make it seem as though all the mystery and aura had slipped from Wilco’s grasp.

Mercifully, they replaced the aura with guitars, so it’s not all bad. Already displaying well-oiled chemistry, Cline, Tweedy, and occasionally Sansone partake in some mighty impressive guitar interplay, and show themselves able to darkly puncture even the most non-threatening piano-based soft rock on a dime with masterfully synchronized jams. As a result, these songs actually end up going to some rather unexpected places – surging ’68 Beatles choruses (“Hate It Here”), Skynyrdian three guitar abandon (“Walken”), or the (relatively) riled up middle section of the otherwise sweetly pastoral “You Are My Face.” The pinnacle of their achievements is of course “Impossible Germany,” a Television-worthy display of chops and synchronicity that’ll make you want to give Cline a standing ovation even if you’re just listening alone in your bedroom on headphones. Of course, all this makes me shudder to think what a lot of this material would sound like without all the cool guitars. Or, alternately, the much greater things this guitar army was capable of doing. And you know, I’m happy to be a glass half full kind of guy and dwell on the latter.


  1. Emily wrote:

    I love this record! And I agree that the dad rock moniker makes no sense whatsoever. And I love You Are My Face.

    Aren’t you glad to be getting all these great, high quality comments from me?! 😀

  2. Emily wrote:

    Woah, look at that! I made an emoticon show up. What other ones can I try?

    😀 🙂 🙁 :'( :p


  3. Hey,

    We interviewed Jeff Tweedy a while back, check it out if you’d like.


    • Ivan wrote:

      i brought Wilco in to play after one of our games in 2000. It didn’t draw as well as the BoDeans or Poi Dog Pondering shows, but a rbtsecpaele crowd stayed for their show nonetheless. i recall Jeff being into the Fire at the time.

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