Wilco has become known as a band that takes risks in the name of bigger musical ideas. The Mermaid sessions dared to take on Woody Guthrie unpublished. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot‚ which bewildered the band's label‚ turned out to be a groundbreaking work of staggering genius. A Ghost is Born drew critical brickbats for the WTF maelstrom of "Less Than You Think." Yet after all that‚ Wilco has done two things bands rarely do--continued to push while building a fanatical following that won't avert its gaze.

Fittingly titled Wilco (The Album)‚ the band's latest release embodies everything that has drawn those fans in and kept them arrested--resonant‚ complexly-layered songs that push the boundary between music and noise‚ and intelligent‚ poetic lyrics that peel back the kitten fur to reveal the barbed wire hidden inside. But for even the most resolute fans‚ this album may be the one that finally breaks their attention. Despite the effort‚ it sounds a little too precisely like‚ well‚ Wilco.

Of course‚ given the band's history‚ this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Wilco (The Album) is loaded with gems. "Wilco (The Song)" howls along the edge of the knife. "Bull Black Nova" rattles with strapped-down fury‚ and threatens to come apart at the seams. "You Never Know" is a road-ready live show anthem. And "I'll Fight" is as sublime a love letter as Jeff Tweedy has ever sung.

But the downside here is that for the first time in a while‚ the band has done little to nudge listeners away--or toward a new idea of what Wilco can be. The tunes aren't mailed in--far from it--but they lack a compelling urgency. In the past‚ you could put on a new Wilco release‚ and know that there would be something to leave you shaking your head‚ even if you thought you knew the band before. But with Wilco (The Album)‚ a great band has failed to push. After all this time‚ we've come to expect more.