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Is this the end of Wilco?

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 10:34 21/05/2014

So Jeff Tweedy is releasing a solo album. I've been dreading this news. I knew it was going to come. I don't mind that Wilco might wrap things up - bands run their course and I think that Wilco has probably been treading water for the last couple of releases. They haven't made a bad album but it's starting to feel like a long time since they made a truly great record.

When they played here last year - my third time seeing the band - it felt like a victory lap; a greatest hits-like set, one last jaunt around the world.

All of the members of Wilco are involved in other musical projects - I've already recommended to you guitarist Nels Cline's latest offering as The Nels Cline Singers, one of the best albums of the year so far. Two of the other members of the band have a new record out under their sideline, The Autumn Defense - it's their fifth album and sounds a lot like trace-around Wilco without the charisma, without any of the little twitches and bursts. It's Wilco Sans Excitement.

But actually Wilco has felt a little bit like Wilco Sans Excitement for a while now.

Still, it's always sad when the lead singer of the band has the wrong idea, figures they're the one that's interesting.

Oh sure, Tweedy writes the songs. I love his singing, his ideas, his playing.

But his ideas with Wilco have really only started to fire because of drummer Glenn Kotche and guitarist Nels Cline. They are the two key ingredients to the Wilco magic. They are in fact the magic.

For all the great solo careers that have happened when a lead vocalist steps out and away from the band there are far more examples of the singer getting it all wrong by thinking they were the interesting one.

Mick Jagger's worked out that the world doesn't want to hear him without his magic (Charlie Watts and Keith Richards). And I say that as almost the only fan of Jagger's solo album, Primitive Cool. It's nearly my favourite Rolling Stones album of the 1980s - only the bookends of that decade for the Stones, Tattoo You and Steel Wheels, had anything that could compete with Jagger's best solo album. But the world didn't even want Jagger's best solo album. It wants average Stones albums far more than it wants Jagger's best.

Will the same be true of Wilco and Tweedy? I think so. But I doubt Tweedy will even muster a great solo album. All I have to go on there of course is a bad feeling.

Now, who cares you say. Wilco are rubbish, you say

Well perhaps you can think of a time when one of your favourite bands lost out to the lead singer thinking their solo career was the key.

And to clarify - I have no issue with Wilco finishing up here. If in fact they are finished. I'm almost relieved to think this might be the end for Wilco. There's nothing left for them to do. They've been a bit like the music version of getting the high score on a video game, clocking it, going back to the start and just adding extra lives. Somewhere in the auxiliary keyboardists and third guitar players the essence of Wilco - and the band's magic - was lost at least three albums ago.

And yeah I'll check out a Jeff Tweedy solo album. But I feel like it's just going to sound like poor-man's Wilco. And that's gotta hurt when you thought you were the band's chief ingredient. Only the lukewarm solo career can prove that it was the sound of the band's colours and the way the thinking-outside-the-box players shaped that sound by colouring in and around - and over - the lines. Jeff Tweedy

I smell a turkey from Tweedy. And the death of Wilco to follow.

I hope I'm wrong.  

What do you reckon? And if Wilco was never your thing perhaps you can share a time you were bitterly disappointed when the lead singer of a favourite group stepped out but couldn't step up?

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