- 29 Sep 23
Alt-country legends return with Cate Le Bon-produced album
Barely 16 months since 2022’s double-album, Cruel Country, Jeff Tweedy’s elder statesmen of alt-country, Wilco, are back with another long-player, their 13th. They previewed a couple of the songs during their incendiary Olympia Theatre gig in early September, and what was immediately apparent was how easily these new songs fitted with their stellar back catalogue.
The Tweedy-led six-piece employed Welsh singer Cate Le Bon on knob-twiddling duties, the first time they’ve used an outside producer since 2009’s self-titled release. Le Bon’s art-pop sensibilities are subtly present on the likes of the echoey and quietly insistent ‘A Bowl And A Pudding’; the lo-fi swish and shimmer of ‘Pittsburgh’; and ‘Sunlight Ends’, a tender blend of ululating rhythm, tinkering effects and gentle vocal.
Like most of their more recent releases, Cousin (we’re not sure if the title is a reference to the brilliant drama, The Bear, whose soundtrack is delightfully Wilco-heavy) eschews the punkier elements of their DNA in favour of a more laid-back, countrified tone. Lead single ‘Evicted’ is a perfect case in point, another brilliantly perceptive, sentiment-free break-up song from Tweedy. The piano-driven ‘Ten Dead’ sees the singer riffing on gun culture and bad-news fatigue, without ever getting preachy, while the title track contains one of those Tweedy codas that live long in the memory, as he insists, “It never hurts to cry.”
The slow and atmospheric ‘Infinite Surprise’ washes over the listener in waves of sound, Tweedy employing a falsetto, before a quietly discordant finale calls to mind their career-defining Yankee Hotel Foxtrot era, while there’s a touch of Arcade Fire to the insistent gallop of the closing ‘Meant To Be’.
Nothing raises itself above a mid-paced, some would say middle-aged, shuffle – but it’s still another stellar album from a band who seem permanently at the peak of their powers.