Jeff Tweedy - Warmer - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Jeff Tweedy - Warmer

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2019-05-10
Jeff Tweedy - Warmer
Jeff Tweedy - Warmer

Not the first guy to come to mind when you think of fun and frivolity, leave it to Jeff Tweedy to put a modern musical twist on the old Warmer/Colder kids’ game.  Releasing his first true solo album of new material just a few months back under the title of Warm, Tweedy has come back just a few months later to release its companion piece, Warmer.  True to its title, Warmer gets a few steps closer to Tweedy’s true self.  It’s as likely as close as you will get to know Jeff Tweedy up close and personal outside of reading his pointed autobiography Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back)

In fact, Tweedy opens right up on the first track, ‘Orphans’.  With a trademark clipped and hesitatingly insistent rhythm, Tweedy imparts the freshness of the loss of parents that never recedes.  Always one to land on an inspired metaphor, he sings of his mother - “I feel for her like a missing tooth”.  Even if it’s been a few years for most of us since a dental mishap, the physical feeling of that void is ingrained.  Several songs in, Tweedy waxes nostalgic on ‘Sick Server’ which is colored by a pedal steel worked as wispily as a theremin.  He confesses here he never went back home unless he needed to eat.  A place now he can only return in dreams.  If you like your Tweedy in his most melancholy mood, ‘Sick Server’ will do you well.

Sticking with the personal, the bottom-heavy drive of ‘Family Ghost’ finds Tweedy searching for reason on the American landscape, but only finding it in family.  The closing discordant countrified ‘Guaranteed’ has Tweedy dishing on his nearly quarter-century-long marriage.  If you were fortunate enough to catch him on his recent solo tour you could have heard a more flattering take on “I’m a piece of work, and you’re no walk in the park”, but if Tweedy’s inclined to get real he does.  As to the emotive songs, Tweedy gives a wink and a nod on the sardonic lilt of ‘Evergreen’.  This one sounds torn from the Woody Guthrie playbook and a sonic extension of ‘Mountain Bed’.  He ponders the impossible in the line “have you even seen anything evergreen” and slyly laments of disconnectedness - “I may break my pen filling you in.” 

In case there is any concern that Warmer is only one for the lyrically motivated, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  All of the above are tuneful as well as insightful, but other moments here push at musical norms as the best of Tweedy’s work with his band do.  The more cryptic ‘and Then You Cut It In Half’ erupts into a skronky guitar interplay at the end.  This carries into the infectious hot country sound of ‘Ten Sentences’, which belies its sad tale of a life summed up too briefly.  The guitar tracings of ‘Empty Head’ hearken back to the laid back complexity of Sky Blue Sky, while the simple pirouette of ‘Landscape’ shares a melodic snippet from a ‘Moon River’ sounding song you can’t quite put your finger on.              

Reluctant hero, anti-hero, or hero not at all, Tweedy does let the listener in closer from last year’s Warm.  I opined a bit on the cover photo from Warm in that review, but ironically Warmer, in spite of the cover photo’s closed countenance reveals more of the man, son, father, and husband than you might expect.  The likely listeners here are career followers, so the revelations that surface here are nuggets to treasure.  If the progression were to continue here from Warm to Warmer to You’re Getting Red Hot, I’d be game.  But what has made Tweedy the most alluring over the years is his refusal to stay in one place for long.

Note:  Warmer was originally released as a vinyl only limited edition on Record Store Day this April.  It will be streaming live here from May 10 to May 12, and then widely released through the more standard channels on July 12.              

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