There’s every reason to go ahead and nab the record that all the critics, NPR affiliates and guitar-owning dads are talking about upon its release today, Wilco’s “The Whole Love.” It’s the best Wilco record since (insert your last favorite Wilco record here). In all seriousness, it’s the Chicago band’s most sonically experimental disc since its early-‘00s breakthroughs “A Ghost Is Born” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” And yet, it’s also the most musically light-hearted and Beatles-y Wilco album since 1999's “Summerteeth,” which was made by an entirely different Wilco.
One thing that’s amazing about Jeff Tweedy: He’s the unequivocal leader of Wilco, but he has faded more and more into the background since the current lineup of his band gelled around 2004. John Stirratt’s bass parts are arguably more prominent than Tweedy’s lyrics in a pair of the best new tracks, “I Might” and “Dawned on Me.” And then there’s Nels Cline’s continually percolating guitar wizardry, let loose right away in the dark, dizzying opening number “The Art of Almost.”
Another thing that sets Tweedy apart (when you are paying attention to his lyrics): He has this continued ability to write love songs with the element of shock and awe, as in he can’t believe he still has any love left in him. That was true of “You and I” on 2009’s “Wilco (the Album),” and it continues here in “Dawned on Me” and the title track. Mostly, though, “Whole Love” seems to be all about being in love with this current lineup of his band, together since 2004 and gloriously captured here. So much for the seven-year itch.
With all that said about “The Whole Love,” it’s no small declaration to suggest that the record coming out today that should be getting all the accolades and attention is “Everything Is Boring, & Everyone Is a [Expletive] Liar,” the long-awaited second album by horn-dog, nerd-genius East Coast rapper Spank Rock. This guy is one odd duck. He was just in town opening for Ke$ha at Roy Wilkins and previously toured with Amanda Blank. Really, though, he should be out there opening for M.I.A. or Kanye West, what with his equally strong, madcap lyrical flow and his grab-bag of bombastic, electro-fried beats.
Working with genre-pushing producers Boys Noize (Kelis, Chilly Gonzales), Leif (Das Racist) and his primary partner XXXChange – Mark Ronson also co-helmed the ironically titled “#1 Hit” – MC Spank Rock at once crafted an album perfect for a dance floor but probably intended for souped-up Nissans with booming woofers (especially the not-so-ironically titled “Car Song,” featuring Santigold). Sonically, this disc offers one surprise and whiplash turnaround after another, like a Girl Talk album where the tracks aren’t stolen. Well, with a few unusual exceptions, like the sampling of German art-rock band Can in "Energy."
The lyrics are as original as they come, too. Spanky somehow connects racism to his genitalia in “Race Riot,” gets his soul rejected by the devil in the Prince-copping “Baby” and sounds like a perverted wallflower eyeing the dance floor in the explicit but delicious “Hot Potato.” One thing that does make sense by disc’s end is the first half of his album title. Suddenly, everything else in hip-hop seems boring.