Published Nov 29, 2018Something of a stocktaking connected to his new memoir, WARM is Jeff Tweedy's first proper solo expression, and playfully and earnestly reflects aspects of the life he's lived. Though the remarkable players in Wilco aren't present (except Glenn Kotche, who drums on album closer, "How Will I Find You"), the music here is a mesmerizing blend of pop and folk that fans of Tweedy will love.
As mentioned, WARM is inextricably connected to Tweedy's autobiography, Let's Go (So We Can Get Back), as he wrote the record somewhere in the midst of writing this remarkable book about his own life from a refreshingly objective, self-aware perspective. Indeed, lyrics for the record are included in the pages, and both expressions exhibit his humorous and anxiety-laden philosophy on life. Even the book's title is a reference to his late dad's inherent discomfort with what the day might bring, and it's a nervous trait that was passed down to his talented son.
The album's most overt pop song, "Let's Go Rain," is an infectious tune about how the world should likely just end already, couched in the Christian religious imagery that Tweedy, who has since converted to Judaism, was surely exposed to as a child. "If I die, don't bury me," he sings on "From Far Away," after opening the record with "I leave behind a trail of songs," on "Bombs Above," wondering if his work has been enough to establish a real connection with people. Things get dark a lot in Tweedy's mind, but then he sings a line somewhere and you can hear him smiling in it. "What're you gonna do?' he seems to say.
As an existential exercise, Tweedy doesn't attempt to track his every musical interest or influence but, if anything, WARM most recalls Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding. It's in that strange realm where Tweedy's propelling things on an old Martin, but the bass and drums (the latter, played by his son Spencer; virtually every other instrument was in Jeff's hands) are busy and bouncy, while other sonic elements give the whole thing a warped, vaguely psychedelic vibe. Then there's Tweedy offering adventurous stories and imagery, cracking open tasty fortune cookies that reveal things like, "Don't forget, we all think about dying / Don't let it kill you."
WARM is brilliant and meditative, and sounds like the work of a person who found something significant after digging through his mind, searching for some sense of his true self. Jeff Tweedy clearly spent more time than usual talking to himself of late, and the expressive results are strong. His memory went jogging and kicked up enough dust that he had to put it down on paper and on tape, and it all feels like the most direct pathway into his complex psyche that he's ever offered. (dBpm)