Hey all you you Chicago WILCO fans! Now you can download WILCO’s new album for FREE until August. This week WILCO began letting fans download the new album, “Star Wars,” for free at www.wilcoworld.net, before releasing it on CD in August and vinyl in November. The band owns its own label and fully controls its destiny. All Wilco asks is that you sign up for the band’s mailing list and consider buying their album and other albums they like.
In a concrete way, Wilco’s ninth studio LP Star Wars is their most accessible and least demanding, a free download equalizing the Wilco evangelist and those who swore they’d never pay one red cent for their music. Star Wars is also Wilco’s shortest and least agenda-driven album since their debut, two things that actually lend it a novelty that endures beyond its instantaneous release. Star Wars quickly develops its sonic character, and if it must have a label, “mini-rock” suffices. For one thing, these are the most compact and aerodynamic Wilco songs, aligning with a host of new-to-them glam precedents who punctured rock’s chest-puffing machismo. The pinched EQ’ing and stylishly sheared fuzz riffs of “Random Name Generator” tips a top hat to T. Rex; the Suicide-al “Pickled Ginger” removes the “blues” from 12-bar blues and replaces it with post-punk rigidity and blacked-out negative space; “You Satellite” continuously wraps itself in seemingly endless layers of high-thread count bedsheets, recalling the unsavory reveries of Velvet Underground.
A crackling 33-minute trip, the album has way more in common with ‘90s indie pranksters like Pavement than it does with the Americana scene that Wilco’s long been associated with. While a few of these songs won’t stick in listeners’ heads for long, all of them feature a delightful sonic twist of some sort. You can tell what mood they’re in within a second of turning on the opener “EKG,” an instrumental whose migraine-frequency guitar stabs eventually lock onto a kraut groove that suggests liftoff into another world. In that world, we get a tune like “More…,” which sounds a bit like Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” except for the fact that its riffs pan between ears and the song drowns itself in distortion before the three-minute mark.
Why do they give away albums to their passionate fans? In 2001, during a dispute with the band’s record label, Wilco leaked the band’s album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” online and later streamed it for free. The result of the action was that the band gained more fans than ever, ended up with a better deal on another record label, and, when it was released on disc a few months later, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” became the band’s best-selling album. The band then made a habit of streaming albums before their release.
Wilco is an American alternative rock band based in Chicago, Illinois. The band was formed in 1994 by the remaining members of alternative country group Uncle Tupelo following singer Jay Farrar’s departure. Wilco’s lineup changed frequently during its first decade, with only singer Jeff Tweedy and bassist John Stirratt remaining from the original incarnation. Since early 2004, the lineup has been unchanged, consisting of Tweedy, Stirratt, guitarist Nels Cline, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, keyboard player Mikael Jorgensen, and drummer Glenn Kotche. Wilco has released nine studio albums, a live double album, and four collaborations: three with Billy Bragg and one with The Minus 5.