By DAN MACINTOSH
Jeff Tweedy solo is not all that different from music he makes with Wilco. It’s just more stripped down and less adventurous. That’s not a bad thing, though, because it frees Tweedy’s songs from sonic distraction. WARM is an album of warm music, in the sense that it’s quiet and acoustic in many places. It’s not, however, an album that will leave you with the warm and fuzzies.
The full-length opens boldly with “Bombs Above,” which finds Tweedy singing a mea culpa of sorts for all those he may have harmed over the years. (The album, by the way, coincides with Let’s Go, Tweedy’s recently released memoirs, and can be viewed as a kind of aural accompaniment to the singer/songwriter’s autobiographic writings).
Although WARM is measurably quieter than many of the Wilco albums, there are moments where Tweedy reminds us of his early career breakthrough country music recordings with Uncle Tupelo.
“I Know What It’s Like” wraps its message about how Tweedy knows the feeling of being unloved within a driving acoustic rocker that also incorporates a touch of twang. If this song ever found a place onto contemporary country radio, it’d sound positively traditional when placed side by side with the rest of the pop music played there.
Tweedy Responds to Queries
In contrast, “The Red Brick” is a trippy piece of droning psychedelia, which is beautifully Rubber Soul/Revolver Beatles-esque. “Some Birds” also references vintage Beatles sounds with its Harrison-like melodic guitar riff. “How Will I Find You,” with its thumping, dirge-y acoustic guitar groove, conjures up sonic images of Neil Young in his most vulnerable state.
While “Bombs Above” finds Tweedy reaching out to those he may have rubbed the wrong way, “Having Been Is No Way To Be” finds Jeff responding to those behaving a little too nosily about his personal behavior. “Now the people say,” he sings, regretfully, “What drugs did you take? /And why don’t you start taking them again?” As a recovering addict, these are the sorts of annoying queries Tweedy will just need to live with from now on.
Tweedy Album Cover Looks Defiant, Music is Not
Tweedy is pictured on the album cover with fists clenched and arms raised. He doesn’t sound all too defiant, however. Rather, the overall tone is far more somber.
On “From Far Away,” Tweedy applies a finger picked guitar pattern to a lyric that grapples with mortality in some places. In a kind of folkish “Space Oddity,” Tweedy advises: “If I die/Don’t bury me/Rattle me down/Like an old machine.” And as though he’s connected himself with David Bowie’s “Starman” he muses, “Could I find a world, just right?”
WARM is an inventive collection of songs that reveal their strengths with repeated plays. Although it doesn’t always wow you with its sound, it consistently woos you with its intelligences and heart.
Watch Jeff Tweedy and his sons on Jimmy Kimmel: