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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Now, from moon rocks to critic Tom Moon and rock 'n' roll. We couldn't resist. Wilco releases its eighth album tomorrow. It's called "The Whole Love." And Tom has our review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STANDING O")

TOM MOON: The whispers usually start after rock bands have been around for a while. Die-hard fans worry about their beloved band getting stale.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STANDING O")

JEFF TWEEDY: (Singing) How can you tell you're under a spell? You're gone for miles and miles away slow...

MOON: Incredibly, despite its long run, Wilco has escaped that fate.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STANDING O")

TWEEDY: (Singing) ...when you're alone, there's nothing in your heart, don't feel it in your soul. No standing o, o, o. Maybe you've noticed I'm a machine at anything that I've done. Maybe you've noticed I'm not the same as almost everyone.

MOON: The 12 songs on this new album suggest that Wilco has somehow found another gear. This is no small thing, considering the band's output and its rigorous touring schedule. As front man Jeff Tweedy puts it, performing the old songs four or five nights a week can wear a deep path in a musician's psyche. It's a little like the GPS barking turn-by-turn directions for a route you know by heart. Sometimes, to uncover genuinely fresh ideas, you need to break away from those patterns. Tweedy says that before the band began work on this project, it took significant time off.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ART OF ALMOST")

TWEEDY: (Singing) I heard a faint old age lover. I had other ways to hurt myself by calling out, open up my heart and fall, and I blame it all on dust. The art of almost, almost.

MOON: That's the first track on "The Whole Love." Right away, it sounds like a recharge. It's got some of the musical ideas that drew Wilco away from straight-ahead rock on the last few records, those experiments in extended jam band-style improvisation and the electronic squiggles and the tense contemporary classical orchestrations. But this time, those elements are cranked up a few notches and more fully integrated into the compositions.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAWNED ON ME")

TWEEDY: (Singing) But I can't help it if I fall in love with you again. I'm calling just to let you know it dawned on me, dawned on me.

MOON: So you get this lovely Beatles-inspired melody, which then steamrolls into a jarring noise assault guitar solo.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAWNED ON ME")

MOON: There's a whole lot going on inside of "The Whole Love." The pop refrains are poppier, the experimental lunges more dramatic than before. Some of the energy can be attributed to the band's hiatus, but some of it sounds to me like six incredibly talented multi-instrumentalists getting comfortable enough to throw any old wild notion into the mix. Starting with what are often fairly conventional songs, these musicians use gestures large and small to radicalize the tunes from the inside out, transforming simple, declarative lines into audio objects of wonder.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I MIGHT")

NORRIS: Our reviewer is Tom Moon. The new album from Wilco is called "The Whole Love." And you can hear the entire album online at nprmusic.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I MIGHT")

TWEEDY: (Singing) Was I wrong, off all night long? Was so hot. I was thinking sun. I can't deny that...

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