As a double album of over 72 minutes of music this record by Wilco's master craftsman can feel like a bit of a slog on first listens and at 20 songs it does on occasions threaten to overstay its welcome. For this release Tweedy has teamed up with his son Spencer on drums to produce his first studio double since "Being There". The key question is it a Wilco album without Wilco or something that stands in its own right? The answer is there are plenty of sounds on "Sukierae" to fully justify this solo exploration although the results come with some missteps that could have erased with more judicious editing.
Like recent Wilco albums there is not one overarching label you can apply to album. It starts with a terse jagged one minute punk rock song "Don't let me be so understood" which contrasts sharply with Nick Drake style ballads like "Pigeons". One thing that certainly is absent is the sonic adventurism of albums like "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and "A Ghost is Born" although songs like "Diamond Light Part 1" have fascinating Radiohead like drum patterns and do end in a controlled cacophony. It is however to the more structured tracks to which you must turn to reap the richest rewards. Songs like the simple Americana of "New Moon" confirms Tweedy as a master of the simple alt country ballad. "Wait for Love" is even better with one of those aching melodies that Tweedy summons up at least once on a Wilco album. Broadly in this same vibe is "Flowering" which Tweedy admits was one of several of the album's tracks were built up from solo acoustic demos recorded on his iPhone. The echoes of Dylan on "Fake Fur Coat" are obvious but its a brilliant track where Tweedy wryly observes that "I concede there's beauty in bubblegum/And rolling up my sleeves/To advertise the new freedom/I accept that I can't receive". Others like "World Away" have that rough and ready feel that the Band once had a monopoly upon.
The problem is that by this time the generally laid-back vibe tends to become all too familiar and somewhat lacking in pace and excitement. Thus a song like "Down from above" is a plain dull and proceeds at such a snails pace that once you hear it there is little chance of ever seeking it out again. Indeed the album tends to fire best when Spencer's drumming drives the music forward as in "Slow Love". It is however the laid-back fare of "Honey Combed" which predominates making "Sukierae" a largely mellow affair which despite some faults will do nicely until the next full Wilco album.
Review by Red on Black