[18 January 2012]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Wilco’s Speak Into the Rose is an EP originally available in a 10-inch vinyl limited edition as part of the Record Store Day events that coincided with Black Friday in the United States. Two of its four tracks are taken from the previously released deluxe edition of 2011’s critically-acclaimed The Whole Love: title track “Speak Into the Rose” and “Message from Mid-Bar”. The other songs are a demo of “I Might” and an alternate version of “Art of Almost”.
“Art of Almost” opens the EP with its stuttering ambiance and bleak-but-beautiful lyrics. On the surface, it doesn’t seem too significantly different, yet it is somehow even more eerie and unsettling than the album version. “I Might” mixes things up with its pounding rhythms and jaunty power-pop touches (hand-claps; bright, ascending swirls of synths; and, possibly, a glockenspiel).
“Speak Into the Rose” is a chorus of guitars stabbing, screeching and squealing over a simple insistent beat. It’s a bit Pixies to my ears, but not at all derivative. Speak Into the Rose closes—in a tight, compact 23 minutes, mind you—on the gorgeously maudlin “Message from Mid-Bar”. Its slide guitar paired with the slight send-up of the lyric “I hate you less / Than the rest / We’re all swine / But you’re all mine” is a perfect ending to an EP that successfully and succinctly encapsulates where the band is, where it has come from, and what it is capable of in the future. Speak Into the Rose is the perfect primer for Wilco.