Jeff Tweedy comes across as the sage dude quietly sitting at a table in some nondescript cafe, reading a tattered copy of George Saunders’ CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and drinking a vitamin water. Baggy jacket, frumpy hat covering a head of wild hair, and a beard you want to tell him to please shave. Even when Tweedy was far more caustic and anxious, there was a sense that he was very sensitive to the world around him. That, for me, made him someone I wished I could know. I felt that way, too. Sort of a frayed, buzzing wire of empathy and dread. His records with Wilco were like journal entries into the mind of a world-weary man. Weary of the outside world, as well as the one he was responsible for that he was building with his wife and sons. And of course with his band.
Album after album saw his sickness grow, as well as his art. Each record saw a transformation in Tweedy from someone nearly lost to his fears and addiction to someone gaining ground personally. Finding some sort of confidence in himself and his storytelling. And now we’ve reached the point where that confidence has allowed Jeff Tweedy to stand completely on his own with his first debut solo LP. WARM is a soft-spoken, yet confident album filled with songs as honest and brittle as Tweedy has ever been. Not communicating behind cryptic poetry and dream-like images, Jeff Tweedy tells us how he’s really feeling nowadays, and it’s a refreshing record to get lost in.
WARM coincides with the release of Jeff Tweedy’s memoir Let’s Go(So We Can Get Back), in which Jeff talks about his life growing up in Belleville, IL, finding music, and his experiences in Uncle Tupelo and Wilco. Maybe WARM could be seen as a companion piece to the book, I don’t know. I’d like to think of them as two separate experiences. Possibly the experience of writing the memoir led to Tweedy’s drive to release something just for him. I can’t call him and ask him myself, so I’ll just jump to my own conclusions.
The songs are quiet and embracing, with all of them being more acoustic strummers than noisy and jangly(definitely more A.M. than Born Again in the USA.) “Bombs Above” puts a war-torn world as a metaphor for familial strife. It’s Tweedy trying to make amends for sins of the past, something Tweedy is quite good at. “Some Birds” is a steady rhythm and Tweedy’s swift wordsmithing. “I’d love to take you down and leave you there” and “I break bricks with my heart” show Tweedy in great form. “I Know What It’s Like” is another sweet, pat on the back kind of track. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much this song reminds me of A.M.s titular track “I Must Be High”. The song is Tweedy saying he’s been there, and it gets better…eventually.
Elsewhere, the acoustic dirge of “How Hard It Is For A Desert To Die” and the autobiographical “Having Been Is No Way To Be” work out the kinks of the old Jeff to allow the new Jeff to move on and mend old wounds. The sycophants yearning for a drug-addled Tweedy to come back and make broken music again, while the healing Jeff just trying to stay alive for his wife and kids. Tweedy argued a decade ago about how the old adage that the artist must be suffering in order to make great art was complete garbage. He shows on WARM that he was right. Art that comes from healing, forgiveness, and a genuinely good place can be just as effective.
WARM is a hug after a long day. It’s a nod saying things will get better. WARM is Jeff Tweedy laying it all out and it’s a great thing.
7.8 out of 10