Wilco is giving this album away for free. Maybe it's the guilt of making ardent fans of the respected Chicago art-rock outfit fork out for their 77-track "odds and sods" collection Alpha Mike Foxtrot from last year.

Or the four-year wait it's been for their ninth studio album.

Yes, there was a solo-ish album, Sukierae, from frontman Jeff Tweedy last year too. But maybe the rush to market is all part of the spirit of the record - bash it out, next!

It certainly sounds like one of the loosest, loudest, least fussed-over Wilco studio albums in a while and all the more exciting for it

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There's no extended odysseys like the seven and 12 minute tracks that bookended 2011's The Whole Love.

Lyrically Tweedy sounds like he's keeping it simple and direct, having maybe mined the personal stuff on the Sukierae album.

Star Wars - good name, think it will catch on? - comes with just 11 tracks, many barely scraping past three minutes while, EKG, the short blast of an instrumental at the beginning sounds like a spontaneous blast of Sonic Youthish guitar skronk to get themselves and their amps warmed up in the studio.

What follows is largely a Wilco rock'n'roll record, one which leans in some familiar directions - the swooning Beatlesque melodies of More ... and Taste the Ceiling are there, so is the ambling acoustic Americana folk-rock beginning of Where Do I Begin, before it heads off into a psychedelic side road.

And there's some of the freak-out fun they applied to pivotal 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - just as the final chorus of More ... is about to turn into a Hey Jude, guitarist Nels Cline takes a welding torch to proceedings. Elsewhere, there's something decidedly New York to the some of this - The Joke Explained rumbles forth sounding like Lou Reed in a good mood; both Cold Slope and King of You come powered by the sort of wiry riffs and hypnotic throb that powered the likes of Television while Pickled Ginger roars off like in a cloud of Ramones-strength fuzz.

Though Star Wars isn't totally a return to conventional songs: You Satellite is a swirling Velvet Underground meets Tomorrow Never Knows number which achieves lift-off on the back of drummer Glenn Kotche's snowballing rhythms.

It's songs like those that remind of Wilco's enduring strengths: How they can flick the switch between avant-garde over-achievers and garage band at will. Star Wars offers plenty more evidence of what makes them a very special kind of band.

And a generous one too.

Artist:

Wilco

Album:

Star Wars

Label:

dBpm

Verdict:

The force is strong with this one.

- TimeOut