Wilco are often called America’s Radiohead, and they’ve been critically-acclaimed since they formed back in 1994. Their magnum opus came in 2002 with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which got a perfect 10 from Pitchfork, but also nearly ripped the band apart.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that was 13 years ago, though. They’ve consistently made interesting and compelling music throughout their career, and newly-released ninth record Star Wars is no exception.
It arrived in July 2015 with little warning, and took just about everyone by surprise. The band posted short messages on Facebook and Twitter announcing its availability, and that was that. The very next day they performed it live, in full, at Pitchfork Festival in their hometown of Chicago. In keeping with its low-key introduction, frontman Jeff Tweedy described the album simply as “having a cat on the cover”.
A trim 11 tracks and just 33 minutes long, Star Wars is definitely the band’s most fun release, full of fuzz guitars and understated pop melodies. For a band who of late have become famed for virtuoso guitar solos, it’s also surprisingly focused - there’s not much widdling to be found here.
In short, it’s very good indeed, and testament to the fact that in their third decade of existence and onto their ninth line-up, they’re still producing visionary music and evolving their sound.
But with a back catalogue of well over 120 album tracks, plus countless rarities, outtakes and alternative versions, just what counts as definitive Wilco?