The Autumn Defense – Fifth
If Wilco are Dad rock, then The Autumn Defense are Grandad rock. Comprising John Stirratt and Pat Sansone from Wilco, this is their fifth album together. As The Autumn Defense, they’re unashamedly backward-looking. They cite their influences as The Beatles, naturally, The Kinks of the Village Green-era variety, good choice, and The Beach Boys’ later period, what L.A. (Light Album) and MIU, surely not? Well, here, The Autumn Defense seem to be aiming for a George Harrison vibe, but of the Dark Horse years rather than the Apple variety. While some of their influences were on occasions pretty finickety recorders themselves, The Autumn Defense make some of the most deliberate-sounding music out there. Every note seems considered. Every break seems well planned. Every harmony seems straight from the rule book. The result is that each song is almost perfect. The musicianship is superb. The craft is astounding. The professionalism is sheer. But what an interminably dull listen. There’s no spontaneity. No sign of enjoyment. It’s all sounds like work, work, work. And then there are the lyrics. Maybe this time The Autumn Defense have run out of inspiration. But the words are so vapid, they make you hanker after some that are merely banal. “Well I know with what you’ve written”, they sing on ‘Can’t Love Anyone Else’, “I’m absolutely smitten”. At least no small cats were hurt in the making of that rhyme. But they save the best for the last track, ‘What’s It Take?’. “In the blue blur of Chicago”, they croon, “Where is all our precious cargo?”. Well, it was either that or something to do with Wells Fargo. On this album The Autumn Defense have performed an important social function. They’ve reminded everyone that Wilco are still a fine band and that Jeff Tweedy remains the driving force behind them.