WILCO ‘Cousin’ CD

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And for the first time since Sky Blue Sky in 2007, an outside producer has been brought into the band’s Chicago Loft – Cate Le Bon, a Welsh solo artist and producer whose gift for rethinking orthodoxies has recently been employed by Devendra Banhart, John Grant and Kurt Vile.

Wilco have long been skilled at avoiding musical complacency themselves: besides Tweedy, embedded avant-gardists like drummer Glenn Kotche and the remarkable guitarist Nels Cline have seen to that. Nevertheless, Le Bon’s impact on Cousin is akin to Jim O’Rourke’s on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – as a trusted interloper who can unlock new dimensions for this most reliable but restless of contemporary American bands. 

If there’s a theme to Cousin, it centres around the difficulties and rewards of making those connections in alienated environments. The title track’s staccato pulse comes studded with conversational fragments at odds with one another   “There’s this thread of authenticity that flows through everything [Wilco] do, whatever the genre, whatever the feel of the record,” says Le Bon.

The very best artists find new ways to welcome change and stay true to themselves – to get their message across. That, perhaps, is the ultimate triumph of this clever, involving, vital addition to one of the strongest discographies of the last 30 years: Wilco endure.