Peace might finally be coming to tumultuous Wilco world 

After nine albums, mountains of critical praise and herds of fans flocking to every show, the members of Wilco seem to have finally found a sense of comfort, even humor, with its identity. Nowhere is this better evidenced than with "Wilco (The Song)," the opening track of the band's new album.

The eponymous love song finds front man Jeff Tweedy encouraging dedicated listeners that, despite whatever foul fates have befallen them, "Wilco will love you, baby."

Tweedy isn't, of course, suggesting that the group has developed a personal bond with each and every listener across the world, but rather issuing with good-natured smirk the idea that Wilco might be a fan's sole reason of living. The song marks an interesting turn amid the band's catalog " a willful nod to the group as an entity unto itself, a premise hinted at on 2003's Minus 5 collaboration, "Down with Wilco."

"That might not be too far off," bassist John Stirratt said, with a laugh. "The use of parenthesis is a little bit more of a reflection of our sense of humor. There was a time where we would have laughed at the idea of calling an album 'Wilco (The Album).'"

But after surveying the lyrics to find an appropriate title, Stirratt said the band members realized that many of the songs evoked themes and sounds explored at various points in its history, so the title seemed appropriate.

STATE OF FLUX
The Chicago-based group's past will be particularly relevant in the coming weeks for the musicians, whom Stirratt said have been reeling since the May 24 death of former Wilco member Jay Bennett, whose split was partially captured in the 2002 documentary, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart." The band's lineup had been in a state of flux since its start in the mid-1990s, but Stirratt said that Wilco is currently performing with its most stable assembly of players so far " a harmony he said is reflected in the music.

"That may have been the problem for so long: We didn't know who we were," Stirratt said. "We had a lot of different lineups. We couldn't keep a group together for more than one record, but now, this lineup has been together for five years and it's their second record. The last two records have been an attempt to sort of find out the identity of the band and what it can do."

"Wilco (The Album)," to be released later this month, is a very balanced collection that retains the familiar on the relaxed alt-country track "You and I," which features backing vocals by Feist. Fans of the more exploratory side of Wilco will dig into tracks like the buoyantly upbeat, yet startlingly morbid pop song "Sunny Feeling" and "Deeper Down," the charmingly simple tale of a punch-drunk boxer.

In April, Wilco released a live DVD titled "Ashes of American Flags," which chronicled a 2008 swing through the heart of the country, including a show at Tulsa's Cain's Ballroom. The DVD was meant to be filmed and released alongside the live CD, "Kicking Television: Live in Chicago," but the project was delayed. Instead, a film crew followed the band through a string of dates at historic venues.

"We thought it would be a great backdrop, but there wasn't an attempt, initially, to do anything but capture the band live," Stirratt said. "Eventually this lost-America narrative came out of it."

He said the doc doesn't spotlight the turmoil and bickering bandmates captured with the first round of filming, instead focusing on what Wilco does best.

"I'm always happier when the band isn't talking, they're just playing," he said.

Wilco and Heartless Bastards perform at 7 p.m. Monday at the Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center, 425 E. California. "Charles Martin

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Charles Martin

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