Sometimes, we begin by looking back. ‘Warm’, Tweedy’s follow-up to 2017 acoustic retrospective, ‘Together at Last’, finds him in reflective mood. From the offset, we’re on the memory train – “what will I leave behind?” he asks, reflecting on his legacy. It’s the sound of a musician settling into his autumn and flicking through the scrapbook of memory – with the compromise and conclusions that so often presents.
'Don’t Forget’s jaunty jangle surfs an existential crisis, its graceful little guitar motif urging its subject not to get too hung up on existential introspection – “We all think about dying, don’t let it kill you” – but instead retreat back to the “little galaxy” of love.
The record’s a constant dance between this duality, and spends a fair while musing on death and what it all means. There’s plenty of it kicking about, on the mournful soundscape of the Wilco-esque ‘How Hard It Is For A Desert To Die’ to the more explicit questions (“If I was dead what difference would it ever make to them?”)
Yet it’s this notion of the split self that’s its most fascinating feature, leading right through to the metaphor of a mirror twin – “he’s always looking out, and I’m always looking in”. Throughout, Tweedy seems to be addressing either side of his psyche, holding out perspectives from the other place as a means of restoring balance.
‘I know what it’s like’ ripples with anxiety and ache, yet speaks with the wisdom of someone who knows “what it’s like to keep losing your place”. And while plenty woozy gorgeousness can be found on tracks like ‘Let’s Go Rain Again’ and ‘Some Birds’, there’s an underlying sense of fatigue that never really fades. “I’m sorry when you wake up to me…I just got tired,” he apologises to a lover. But he is there, and that’s his end of the bargain. In the cosmic gamble of love, sometimes all we can really do is to be present, and hope that we are enough.
‘The Red Brick’ shifts it up a couple of musical gears, crowing into gloriously wonky and weird guitar that I could listen to forever, recounting how “I drank myself back into your life and I cried on the telephone” And then we slide into ‘Warm’. There’s barely a breath between them. Taken as back-to- back companion pieces, they’re the perfect representation of the record’s twin moods – both the torture, and the torpor. Just as the red brick in the summer stays warm when the sun has died, so too can love – and life – retain its value when its golden hours have passed. The trick is to keep your eye on the intimate immediate, when the unknown of the outside seems too big to bear.
This record comes on like the voice of a friend, confessional and familiar - full of small, important reassurances. As ‘Don’t Forget’ counsels, “don’t forget to brush your teeth, or else you’ll have a crooked smile’. It serves as a reminder to get up, move thoughtfully, look after your heart and bones and teeth, and remember that love – in whatever form it takes – will always be there.
Tweedy sings he leaves behind “a trail of songs’. But an album of such compassion and clarity? I think he’s doing himself a disservice.
Words: Marianne Gallagher
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