The below review was written by Will Boogert and Conor Fellin as they listened to Wilco’s Schmilco for the first time. They started writing when the album began, and stopped typing when the album ended. Except for grammar, the review has not been changed since that moment.
Normal American Kids
Conor: Thus begins a surprising album that adds yet another facet to Wilco’s already prolific career.
Will: What is surprising about this album? Honestly.
Conor: I don’t know, that’s what we’ll have to figure out.
Will: Oooooh. Well then I’m excited. Maybe it’ll be just a normal American album by a normal American band. Lots of alienation. Lots of nostalgia. Lots of classic American imagery.
Conor: Yeah, it seems like they’re going for a “Misunderstood” vibe here. Not sure if I like it or not.
Will: I’m going to say that was underwhelming.
If I Ever Was a Child
Conor: And here comes the Nilsson-esque song. (For those of you who haven’t read a single hype piece on this album, it’s generally accepted that Schmilco is a reference to Harry Nilsson’s famous seventies album Nilsson Schmilsson.) Wilco’s embracing their Dad-rock status. It’s good to see some self-awareness.
Will: Is their music sort of deliberately understated?
Conor: Wilco’s? Yeah, here more than ever, it would appear.
Will: What part of your soul does this appeal to? What part of Conor Fellin’s cold heart does this inflame?
Conor: Probably the same part of me that LCD Soundsystem appeals to. The part that weirdly romanticizes this sort of nostalgic middle-aged dad phase. Tweedy is speculating here about whether he ever was a child.
Will: I think it’s pretty clear that you yourself may have never been a child, Mr. Fellin.
Conor: What’s that supposed to mean?
Cry All Day
Will: We’re building, we’re building, this song keeps building. I wonder if it will explode Arcade Fire-style. Or if the dad-stalgia will remain stunted and stifled.
Conor: See, Tweedy doesn’t need your big, rousing choruses. He can just sit on his porch swing and appreciate a calm afternoon.
Will: Well it bothers me. It constantly feels like something should be happening that doesn’t happen.
Conor: You kids are always in a hurry to get somewhere. You need to learn to just sit back and appreciate your sweet tea.
Will: Can I fetch your cane?
Will: Here’s a little dissonance. Finally something I can grab on to. And some weird stopping and starting.
Conor: Yeah, if we’re being honest, this is the Wilco that made Wilco famous.
Will: The Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco? I do like that line, “Slammed my finger in the door of love.”
Conor: Those stops do smart like a jammed finger.
Will: Is this the Wilco you were hoping for? Is this the Wilco we deserve?
Conor: It’s definitely one of the bigger elements you want in a Wilco album. The experimental stylings, nearly always in the service of a story about heartbreak.
Will: In this case, it worked for me.
Will: These songs are so short it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. Only one of these songs is over 4:00”.
Conor: You getting intimidated, Will? Is Jeff Tweedy’s conciseness too much for you?
Will: No more intimidated than I am by 2112 or Echoes or Roundabout.
Conor: Sounds like I’m not the only Dad- rock fan in the room.
Will: You caught me. But while you sit on your porch swing with your tea, I’m out there dressed in ripped jeans and pretending that I’m still young. You’ve embraced the Dad-ness.
Conor: It’s called aging gracefully.
Will: It’s called the slow defeat.
Conor: It’s better to rust than it is to burn out.
Will: Something like that.
Someone to Lose
Conor: Ok, now even I’m starting to get bored.
Will: I mean, this is kind of a fun tune, but I haven’t been able to really remember what’s happened already.
Conor: Oh hey Jeff, I see you liked Help.
Will: “Someday they’re gonna get you”, he says. Who are they? “I hope you find someone to lose someday.”
Conor: Those do sound like two different problems, don’t they? As for that last quote, the sentiment has gotten a little old: oh, do tell me about how you’re embracing love in spite of the risks!
Will: It seems we’re talking about a single Dad here. Happily ever after, schmappily ever after.
Will: Let me guess, the title of this song is ironic.
Conor: Xylophones. We’re getting more suburban the farther we go.
Will: What if we keep going beyond the suburban? What’s out there? The troll people?
Conor: Mountains beyond mountains. We can never get away from the sprawl.
Will: There is certainly no end in sight to this album. Maybe we should only speak in Arcade Fire references from here on out.
Conor: Yeah…I’m gonna veto that.
Will: “Happiness depends on who you blame”. There it is.
Conor: You got your irony.
Will: And I’m TOTALLY satisfied.
Conor: Where have I heard this tune before?
Will: Not sure…maybe Led Zeppelin’s “Bron’Yr Aur Stomp”?
Conor: Maybe. I do like that drum part coming in and adding some youthful verb.
Will: Uhoh…..we’re building to another….wait, it ended.
Conor: I liked that fakeout. Musically, and also because of how you reacted to it.
Will: It was unexpected. I’ll give the Tweedmeister that. This album is for Tweedmeisters, isn’t it? Grading papers on a lonely Thursday afternoon, reminiscing on your former loves?
Conor: I don’t know. Considering Tweedmeister isn’t a word, you could define it to mean people who enjoy Wilco’s Schmilco, in which case you’d be right.
Will: Will: 1, Conor: 0.
Conor: This fret work sounds like it came from Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born era. I like it.
Will: Are we coming to a climax??? Nope. Back to the verse. And a fadeout? What on earth is happening?
Conor: Ok, I’ll admit this is unusually bad.
Will: It was just weird.
Shrug and Destroy
Conor: Maybe “Shrug and Destroy” is what Wilco did to this album.
Will: They had their Revolver and thought, “Meh, America doesn’t need this.” Threw it into the trash can for the sake of a story.
Conor: Actually…no, we can’t give up on this album. We’re music critics, dammit, and this is Wilco. Which means we have to figure out how this is a surprising album that adds yet another facet to Wilco’s already prolific career.
Will: I think we see in this album an attempt to reconcile their fading youth with the career they’ve built on alienated disaffection. They run into the dilemma of capturing the spirit of their youth, but that spirit was spent on wishing they were still younger. It’s a never-ending spiral.
Conor: Eventually it reaches the point where a Neanderthal Tweedy is wishing that he were still an ape.
Will: And even then the clank of his stones against one another never builds to anything above a lonely din.
Conor: “Lonely din.” When you say it that way, I actually like it.
Will: I don’t hate this music. I don’t. I just don’t get anything out of it that I want to get out of music.
We Aren’t the World (Safety Girl)
Conor: Is this supposed to be funny? It’s really not that funny.
Will: I have no idea. But it’s not that funny.
Just Say Goodbye
Will: NO KIDDING, right?
Conor: I like this one. You can hear throwbacks to Laurel Canyon rockers. Those folks are the gold standard of Dad rock.
Will: You do have to admit, Wilco has this slow rollicking acoustic sound down to a T.
Conor: And for exactly that reason, I think we can safely say that this is a surprising album that adds yet another facet to Wilco’s already prolific career.
Will: How surprising.
Conor: Just go with it.