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Star Wars (dBpm Records) is a palate cleanser, a sonic blast of a record that rockets away from the bloat of Wilco’s last three albums.
Jeff Tweedy, always a reliably great but never showy singer, takes a noticeable step back and allows fat, distorted guitar crackle to carry most of the material. The tracklist runs just over a half hour, and marks the band’s shortest studio album.
The band’s new philosophy of less begins on “More..”, as hiccuping verses blossom into an especially bright chorus. But rather than rinse and repeat for another two minutes, the band opts to bury the song early under layers of suffocating guitar squall.
It’s this off the cuff nature that makes Star Wars such a pleasurable and needed record from this band. None of the tracks over stay their welcome, but are packed full of interesting sounds and hooks that invite repeated listens. Even the five minute cosmic hypnosis of “You Satelite” is tolerable and enjoyable thanks to the shorter surrounding songs.
However, the brisk pace doesn’t suit everything. Bristling rocker “Pickled Ginger” teases with a stiff robotic riff, and gradually ignites into what should be a walloping explosion. Instead, the song brakes to an abrupt, frustrating end.
While it never reaches the breath taking intensity or impressive depth of the band’s most beloved tracks, Star Wars is easily the loosest, loudest and leanest Wilco record in over a decade. And they sound all the better for it.
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