On 17 July, Star Wars, Wilco’s first album since 2011, appeared as a free download on their website. At only around 34 minutes long, it’s shorter than any of their recent albums, however it packs a real sonic punch and is easily their most immediate and rewarding listen since 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Wilco, in a similar way to Radiohead before Thom Yorke scared everyone off by turning them into a Warp act, are critically acclaimed and rightly so. Their albums always contain a number of gems and it’s hard to think of a bad album in their catalogue. I like them best when they’re all loose limbed and relaxed (see Wilco (The Song) from 2009’s Wilco (The Album) and Star Wars fits that brief perfectly albeit with added fuzz and a distinct glam rock feel in places. Opening with the short sonic experiment of EKG, the album kicks into life with the superb More… and Random Name Generator both of which mix fuzzy, alt-rock guitars with Marc Bolan style preening, especially on the latter track, an album highlight. The Joke Explained continues the stoner rock vibe nicely, before the superb You Satellite cleans up the sound a little, with a Wilco go Krautrock track.
It’s not all about the band’s rockier side however as tracks like Taste The Ceiling, Where Do I Begin and closer Magnetized display a softer side to the band, albeit one that still displays Wilco’s experimental edge. Star Wars may not end up attracting the sort of praise that the likes of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot do, but it’s still a welcome addition to the band’s impressive catalogue. Short, punchy and full of superb tunes, Star Wars is Wilco at their most accessible. Recommended.