Welcome to Check Your Mode

The all-inclusive, ever-changing, and uncomfortably flexible guide to all things music in the 2010's.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Greatest Songs of 2011: #46: Wilco - "One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)"

A lot of the narrative that went along with The Whole Love was that it was the return of “The Weird Wilco,” which was only true if you listened to the first track then turned the music off to start writing your blurb. The Chicago stalwarts’ newest was very good, but the majority of its tracks were hardly experimental; it was much of the same solid, scholarly indie pop that fans have been hearing since 2007’s Sky Blue Sky. Saying that The Whole Love was a striking left turn for Wilco was incredibly misleading. At most, you could equate it to the gentle jerk that can come when you accidentally turn the dial on a massage chair too high.
That is until you got to the end of the album, when you were faced with “One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend),” an acoustic track that topped off at twelve minutes of heavy repetition. It was experimental because of its length, sure, but its simplicity was also daring. Can we make each one of literally forty-eight repetitions of the same chord progression sound fresh? Can we throw in some holy skepticism as well? (“I said it’s your God I don’t believe in / No, your Bible can’t be true”) And how about that production? Can we make it sound like we’re literally making music off the back porch of Jeff Tweedy’s summer house?
If you thought asking such questions resulted in the best track off The Whole Love, then you’d be right.  “One Sunday Morning” is experimental in the way that the first blues guitarists were experimental, seeing length as an afterthought and instead focusing on how far a melody can go. The track fades out after twelve verses, but it probably could’ve gone longer. Maybe if it were stretched to an entire third disc I would get bored of it. Maybe.


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