Jeff Tweedy is a remarkably versatile songwriter, even when only considering the output of his main gig, Wilco. For every delicate ballad like “Far, Far Away,” there’s a noise-rock storm like “Kicking Television”; for every Tin Pan Alley pastiche like “Hummingbird,” there’s a hazy fever dream like “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.” Jeff Tweedy contains multitudes.
Those multitudes are ably represented on Sukierae, the debut record from the aptly named duo Tweedy, which primarily consists of Jeff and his drummer son Spencer. Lovelorn waltzes, fuzz-guitar freakouts, hushed folk songs: the Jeff Tweedy specialties are all here.
And, for the most part, they’re very good. Of the more accessible tracks, “Low Key” is downright irresistible. With its low and tight rhythm section and insistently driving piano, it’s a pop wonder from Wilco’s Summerteeth playbook. The lovely “Flowering,” which combines Jeff’s Nick Drake-like acoustic guitars and Spencer’s solid midtempo beat, is confident and assured. Songs like these give Sukierae a remarkable momentum, which is no surprise for a veteran like Jeff, but Spencer is especially impressive here. Whether playing straightforward rock or punch-drunk ballads, he sounds like a pro, a drummer well beyond his 18 years.
Even with that confidence and momentum, Sukierae’s 20 songs and 72 minutes don’t exactly breeze by. Not every song has the Tweedy magic, and some of the more tossed-off moments seem like wasted opportunities.
The impressive thing about Sukierae, however, is that the many great songs almost erase the memory of the mediocre ones. Hell, when listening to the flat-out gorgeous “Nobody Dies Anymore,” all heartbreaking melody and ghostly background vocals, full of delicately strummed guitars and Tweedyesque lyrics like “I dance my shoe beneath the black balloon,” nothing else will capture your attention. Jeff Tweedy remains an astonishingly talented craftsman, and Spencer is a welcome addition to the family business.