No one is more aware than Wilco that, on the heels of albums titled Schmilco and Star Wars, reappropriating the title of one of the most famous works of music in history—and in thesetimes*, no less—could come off to some as slightly disingenuous. But while acknowledging his band’s own history of irreverence, here Jeff Tweedy snubs that angle, intending that we should take Wilco’s 11th studio album, Ode to Joy, with open hearts.
“I think it’s audacious and sincere,” Tweedy says. “It just kept coming back as the one title that felt honest. The record is, in a weird way, an ode; this terrible stuff is happening, this deepening sense of creeping authoritarianism that weighs on everybody’s psyche on a daily basis, and you’re allowed to feel a lot of things at once. And one thing that is worth feeling, that is worth fighting for, is your freedom to still have joy even though things are going to shit.”
Besides, no one is more aware than Wilco that, on the heels of ten damn Wilco albums—and especially in these times**—an 11th simply wouldn’t be warranted were it not presenting something equally new and necessary.
[*Political Climate, global; **Rock Music Climate, especially that of white men]
“Nobody needs more Wilco music,” Tweedy says. “But at the same time, if you use that as motivation, that’s a lot of energy to push forward and try to make something that is worth sharing, to challenge yourself to make something that has meaning to you. As an artist, I think that’s your fucking job.”
Following a year that produced a pair of solo albums as well as a bound autobiographical memoir, no one could ever accuse Tweedy of lacking a motor. But where those recent works revealed in their incisive, confessional focus, Wilco, as he says, has a broader mandate, one that requires the space to react to a sonic environment with a little more abstraction being baked into the equation. And so, with an eye on The Climates yet resolute in his belief that they should not dominate the headlines of our daily lives, he gathered Wilco to The Loft in Chicago for work.