Thousands of bands have made strong debuts, and many of those have made good second and third records — it's harder, but not unusual. It's truly rare to make your 10th album exciting and relevant more than 20 years on. For all that, I'd say Wilco is an American legend.
Though Wilco is basically a conventional rock band in form — guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, one lead songwriter — it defies expectations in so many other ways. In 2001, the group put an entire new album (the instant classic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) online for all to hear; it's one thing to do that in 2015, as Wilco did with Star Wars, but it was virtually unheard-of in 2001.
This is a deeply imaginative band, with evocative imagery and relatable storytelling; drummer Glenn Kotche is one of the best around, while Nels Cline's crazy, textured guitar layers add adventure to everything he touches. I could go on, but let's just say that breaking my rule of never bringing a band back to the Tiny Desk — Wilco performed here back in 2011 — was easy once I heard Star Wars.
Wilco opened this set with "The Joke Explained" from that album, but then dug deep into its catalog, performing 1996's "Misunderstood" and two songs from the 1999 pop masterpiece Summerteeth. I'm thinking we make a date: When Wilco turns 25 in a few years, let's break more rules and bring back their magic once more.
Star Wars is available now. (iTunes) (Amazon)
- "The Joke Explained"
- "I'm Always In Love"
- "Shot In The Arm"
Producers: Bob Boilen, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Kara Frame, Becky Lettenberger; Production Assistant: Ben de la Cruz; Photo: Brandon Chew/NPR.
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