Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Wilco – You Never Know



Anthony Miccio: The easy-going harmonies and goofy fills harken back to their 1999 pop peak, Summerteeth, but I’m not sure it’s wise for alt-country art-rockers on their seventh album to hook their least striking single yet around the line “I don’t care anymore.”

Alex Macpherson: So he starts off telling the kids to grow up and get their shit together, which is decent enough paternal advice from these indie dads, I guess. Trouble is, it sets the song up to go somewhere vaguely interesting – maybe some actual profundity, or at least something more than an obvious realisation tritely observed. What we get is “I don’t care any more, I don’t care any more,” over and over again.

Colin Cooper: Cute little harmonies and cute little lead parts aside, marking highly a song rooted mostly around Jeff Tweedy repeatedly claiming he “doesn’t care”, so soon after his former bandmate and studio rival Jay Bennett (in short) died of an operation he couldn’t affordand in this political climate?! Well, it just won’t do. It just won’t do at all.

Tom Ewing: Ordinarily I would be baffled by the youthful vigour of this music but I have read THE GROWN-UP’S GUIDE TO INDIE ROCK and now understand Wilco. For example I now know that the way to find value in an example of “indie rock” is to look for its distinct similarities to music of rock’s past. In this case the piano playing is a little bit Steve Nieve and those descending guitar stabs are taken from a Todd Rundgren tune. With these reassurances I can enjoy this cut on its own terms. The song is about generation gaps and how they are overrated: as a grown-up learning indie rock I can relate! I think I like Wilco, one track at a time at least. I fear a whole long player may be too cutting edge for me!

John M. Cunningham: Wilco is generally more complex than the dismissive “dad-rock” tag they’re sometimes saddled with suggests, but this may well be the dad-rockingest thing they’ve ever done.

Chuck Eddy: As water-logged as this sounds, especially when those incidental production irritants come in, I have to admit it’s also more coherent than I’d expected. Had no idea that they’d turned into the Traveling Wilburys (who I never liked much, and this is no “Handle With Care,” but still).

Andrew Casillas: This reeks of “OMG, Wilco’s made another MOR single!,” but “You Never Know” is actually a remarkably pleasant piece of pop/rock. The production is deft, and the sonic textures are slight and almost ambient. Really, the only thing that holds this back is the lack of a knockout chorus, but it’s nice to think that this is what the Eagles would have sounded like had they enlisted George Harrison into their ranks rather than Joe Walsh.

Michaelangelo Matos: I always wondered what the hell this genial yet totally unexceptional band reminded me of, and the toothy slide guitar nailed it in place: George Harrison solo albums. Which Wilco’s fans probably think are also wonderful, just because someone has to. Actually, no one has to. This is music for white people who’ve just given up.

Alfred Soto: The hook from Tom Petty’s “Jammin’ Me,” stacked harmonies from Traveling Wilburys’ Volume One, George Harrison slide guitar, and Jeff Tweedy’s characteristically vague tut-tutting of his generation signify the band’s embrace of classic rock verities, after years of merely flirting with them. Of course, the “Jammin’ Me” hook is played on piano – what, did you forget Wilco aren’t Kings of Leon? These guys are tasteful.

Ian Mathers: This is going to bug roughly no-one else, but the piano refrain that opens this reminds me intensely of Low’s great “Half Light” (or at least the remix they used in the not great Mothman Prophecies), and as a result I can only half focus on Tweedy’s lyrics, spending the verses instead singing along to the other song. So I’m not sure whether I actually like this song, but the chorus is nice enough and I love the bit that reminds me of “Half Light.”

Al Shipley: I’m glad Nels Cline’s getting a steady paycheck somewhere now. Is this one of the songs where you can actually hear his guitar? No? OK, that’s a nice little lick around the 3-minute mark, but it’s not enough for me.

Matt Cibula: A salty salute! Adorable and spunky, although the revelation that I am giving a rating of 7 to a Wilco song in 2009 has made me re-evaluate a lot of things in my life and swear to do better next time.

Additional Scores

Anthony Easton: [5]
Martin Kavka: [4]
Martin Skidmore: [3]

11 Responses to “Wilco – You Never Know”

  1. You know, guys, if we stick together we can tell ALL our friends that Wilco aren’t very good.

  2. The only thing that confuses me is why my brain told me “My Sweet Lord” was by Todd Rundgren :(

  3. A year or two back, I went to help my uncle pick up a dresser he’d bought. The woman he was buying it from had named her dog “Wilco” after the band. I pretended not to know who they were, but thought “Indie fucking Seattle!” over and over in my head.

  4. That poor dog. I had many similarly horrifying experiences during my brief sojourn in Cardiff.

    Summerteeth is their “pop peak”, eh? That’s the only Wilco album I’ve heard. I got it out of the local library after various people/magazines claimed that Wilco were a band worth paying attention to. It was extremely boring, bog-standard jingle-jangle as I remember. This is probably the first Wilco track I’ve knowingly heard since and they haven’t changed AT ALL.

  5. Summerteeth is a great record. But I wouldn’t say it’s poppier than Being There as a whole. And parts of it are pretty heavy going.

  6. All this recent Wilco revisionism feels odd to me. When (and why) did critics stop liking Wilco’s old stuff, which was (and still is) pretty awesome?

  7. Different critics like different things.

  8. […] keep making fresh discoveries,  The Pastels and Tenniscoats discover late eighties dream-pop, Wilco discover George Harrison, and Madonna discovers how often she can raid her bag of costumes and […]

  9. Heard this on the radio yesterday, and (having only heard it twice before) couldn’t place it at first, but the band who kept coming to mind was Cracker, another group who liked to sing about generations. And a group whose singles I often liked, so there’s a good chance I underrated this by a point or two. There’s also something melodically in it that flashes me on the “ooh sasha, we gotta live together” part of “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone — not a horrible thing.

  10. So I’m reading this post, boggling at the Harrisoniness after hearing the track for the first time on the new “7 Worlds Collide” Oxfam charity album, and I see “Low’s great ‘Half Light'” and I think “who the f— has heard Half Light and would use it as a point of compari… oh.” Hi Ian.

    Tweediness generally leaves me feeling peeved, but I liked this enough.

  11. well, george harrison must be pleased! the song is an homage to the famous “wall of sound” sound from “All things must pass” including piano ala “isn’t it a pity” and very probably, an actual george harrison slide guitar sample (from “my sweet lord”?? mmm..maybe!!) that comes twice in the song! hope they don’t get sued for this… don’t think so. it is pretty gorgeous.