Secret Meeting score: 82
by Philip Moss
Jeff Tweedy strikes me as a total workaholic. In just four years, he’s released a double album (Sukierae) with his son, Spencer, put out two Wilco albums (Star Wars and Schmilco), written a critically acclaimed autobiography, completed a couple of world tours, and released two solo albums – last year’s retrospective of re-recorded career highlights, and now, his first solo album of original material, WARM.
Different to 2014’s sprawling double album Sukierae, which was released under the name Tweedy, WARM is compiled from a tighter palette of influences. If Sukierae’s eclecticism was akin to The White Album, then WARM is more Rubber Soul – packed full of tight arrangements and carefully executed melodies. But somehow, despite his packed schedule, the quality is still high.
Bombs Above is an understated opener that, overtime, will weave its way under your skin through its gentle melody and country-influenced guitars. And it seems the all the reflection that has been going on while writing his memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), has seeped into his lyrics too – ‘I leave behind a trail of songs, from the darkest gloom to the brightest sun’ – as he casts his mind back to the darkest moments of his life, such as his addictions to prescriptions drugs, and the bounty of incredibly uplifting songs that have been scattered throughout his enviable career as a leading force in contemporary Americana.
Some Birds is carried by a tasteful double tracked vocal – with Tweedy’s falsetto providing the earworm melody that made it an obvious choice as lead single. Don’t Forget is perhaps the best example of the ‘sad mid tempo rock’ he states in his book that he’s made a career in over the last three decades, with a clarification that anxiety has been a constant in his life: ‘don’t forget -sometimes we all think about dying.’ While the gorgeously mournful, How Hard It Is For A Desert To Die is the undisputed dark gem that lurks on the record’s A-Side.
The most fun, but in contrast, throwaway moment of the LP is Let’s Go Rain – packed with swaggering Grateful Dead-isms and a ridiculously catchy chorus, it temporarily shakes the heavy mood. Before the centrepiece, From Far Away, shows off not only Tweedy’s brilliance as a songwriter, but justifies his decision to self-produce the record. His ear for subtle, modest arrangement is displayed here in all its glory – with Spencer Tweedy’s off-kilter drums adding a rhythmic spice to this album highlight.
Those who stumble upon WARM looking for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot mk II will be disappointed – it isn’t an instant record that will blow you away on first listen. But, instead, it’s a simply a collection of great ol’ fashioned songwriting, that has more than enough to keep bringing you back for more – suggesting the freewheelin’ Tweedy doesn’t intend on giving up anytime soon.