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The Great American Wilco

Wilco - The Whole Love

A Great American Band packed it in last month. With remarkably little fanfare by the group (though the press and social networks were abuzz with commentary on the development), R.E.M. called it quits after three full decades on the scene. The pantheon of Great American Bands now includes one more silent member.

You might ask: What’s a Great American Band? First of all, it has to be Great, which entails building up a significant body of work, riding out the inevitable down times and rallying with unassailable masterpieces. Second, it has to be American – not necessarily in origin, but in the sources it mines: blues, country, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll and the rest of the musical treasures uncovered in the 20th century. Finally, it has to be an actual Band rather than a unit with one all-powerful leader supported by an interchangeable supporting cast.

So who’s stepping in to take the place of R.E.M. and others who’ve gone before? With The Whole Love, Wilco solidifies its claim to the GAB title. These guys meet all the above criteria: they’ve released nine albums, all of them strong and some very special indeed. They integrate an array of American music into their work, and while Jeff Tweedy is the focal point of Wilco, his five talented cohorts are distinctive and ever-versatile contributors to the final mix. Wilco has seen some changes, but this lineup has remained fixed for three straight albums.

Expect The Whole Love to show up on a bunch of year’s-best lists in the coming months. The reviews have been glowing. Rolling Stone called it “powerful, mind-reeling stuff,” while Reuters compared it to “The White Album” – a recording you return to again and again. And then you dig out your old Wilco albums.

A Great American Band carries on.

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