I've got a problem with Wilco.
After being drawn in by their alt country charm through the two Woody Guthrie / Billy Bragg collaborations, my love of the band expanded rapidly. Having missed all the hoo-hah surrounding Yankee Hotel Foxtrot's release, A Ghost Is Born was the first album I was truly anticipating - and with the mid-season signing of Jim O'Rourke it was this album that lifted them into another league for me, blending electronics, beats and guitars into a thrilling rock album of OK Computer-esque proportions.
Problem is, a lot of hardcore Wilco fans seem to see A Ghost Is Born as Wilco's 'Kid A moment' (for better or for worse) and as such the consensus seems to be to consider the band 'back on track' with the seemingly less far-out vibe of their more recent work. Wilco seem like they might agree and appear very comfortable back in their soft shoes, crafting detailed, refined, quality guitar rock.
Their are still touches of mayhem of course and after the well-crafted crowd-pleaser of Wilco (The Song), the album dips into the darkness with Deeper Down, before continuing the path trodden by the best of 2007's Sky Blue Sky - as swirling guitars cram an eight minute epic into the three and a half minutes of One Wing.
Bull Back Nova borrows in part from the pounding keyboards of Kidsmoke to decent effect, before the album begins to sag in the middle - with the saccharine Feist collaboration You And I and the plodding You Never Know. Things pick up with pounding backbone of (the possibly Bueller-inspired) I'll Fight and before you've registered it, the album is over.
Of course, the bottom line is that this is still an excellent album. Now that the pressure of grading it is over, I'm sure it will settle into my most-played list (18 times so far) - and probably surface in my end of year best-ofs, just as Sky Blue Sky. That album was lifted up a major notch following the live tour that supported the album, with many of the songs beefed up and stretched out when re-created by this immensly engaging band and I expect a similar story following August's London show.
Of course, it is entirely possible that it's me with the problem.