You ever watch that mid-’90s movie Multiplicity with Michael Keaton? In the flick, Keaton’s character laments that he has too many responsibilities in life and clones himself so as to not feel spread too thin anymore. Long story short, hilarity ensues, but you get the feeling that maybe Jeff Tweedy has tapped in to a similar science?
As if Tweedy and Wilco weren’t already busy enough with the 20th anniversary release and accompanying shows for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, curating and headlining their own festivals, late-night TV appearances, and writing books, Wilco has just announced a new album, Cruel Country. The Chicago band’s 12th full-length album is actually a double-disc release featuring 21 tracks and is simply another unbelievable endeavor for what might very well be the busiest band on the planet.
Cruel Country sees the band tackling the roots of the country music lean that has followed them throughout their career. While the band has become much bigger than the early “alt-country” genre that was once assigned to them, Tweedy explains that even though there have always been elements of country in the band’s music, Wilco, “had never been particularly comfortable with accepting that definition,” he said in a statement. “But now, having been around the block a few times, we’re finding it exhilarating to free ourselves within the form, and embrace the simple limitation of calling the music we’re making Country.”
The album — which Wilco will perform in full at their Solid Sound Festival (their other festival) in Massachusetts the same weekend of the album’s release date on May 27th — is largely comprised of live takes at the band’s Chicago studio, The Loft.
“It’s a style of recording that forces a band to surrender control and learn to trust each other, along with each others’ imperfections, musical and otherwise,” Tweedy says. “But when it’s working the way it’s supposed to, it feels like gathering around some wild collective instrument, one that requires six sets of hands to play.”
There’s a conceptual narrative built into Cruel Country about the history of the United States. That, along with the unique recording style and country music approach, is on full display in the video for the lead single, “Falling Apart (Right Now).” Making sense of everything (as he always does so well), Tweedy added, “Country music is simply designed to aim squarely at the low-hanging fruit of the truth. If someone can sing it, and it’s given a voice… well, then it becomes very hard not to see. We’re looking at it. It’s a cruel country, and it’s also beautiful. Love it or leave it. Or if you can’t love it, maybe you’ve already left.”
Watch the live in studio video for “Falling Apart (Right Now)” above and check out the Cruel Country album artwork and tracklist below.
1. “I Am My Mother”
2. “Cruel Country”
5. “The Empty Condor”
6. “Tonight’s The Day”
7. “All Across The World”
8. “Darkness Is Cheap”
9. “Bird Without A Tail / Base Of My Skull”
10. “Tired Of Taking It Out On You”
11. “The Universe”
12. “Many Worlds”
13. “Hearts Hard To Find”
14. “Falling Apart (Right Now)”
15. “Please Be Wrong”
16. “Story To Tell”
17. “A Lifetime To Find”
18. “Country Song Upside-Down”
19. “Mystery Binds”
20. “Sad Kind Of Way”
21. “The Plains”
Cruel Country is out 5/27 via dBpm Records. Pre-order it here.