Calling Loose Fur the least-inspired of Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche, and Jim O'Rourke's collaborations isn't as bad as it sounds, considering that two of their other projects -- Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which O'Rourke produced, and O'Rourke's own Insignificance, which featured Tweedy and Kotche among its supporting players -- were two of the best-received albums in 2002 and 2001. As it stands, the album's laid-back, off-the-cuff experiments are just enjoyable instead of brilliant, but they nevertheless display the undeniable creative chemistry that the trio shares. Though O'Rourke, Tweedy, and Kotche share songwriting credits on all six of Loose Fur's shambling, largely acoustic tracks, their individual musical identities -- particularly Tweedy and O'Rourke's -- still bubble to top occasionally, most notably on the album's first two songs. The backwater Krautrock of "Laminated Cat" sets Tweedy's earthy, earnest vocals against percolating synths, a lumbering guitar lick, and an intricate, kinetic drum pattern, making it a slightly rough-around-the-edges kissing cousin to the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot material. "Elegant Transaction," on the other hand, captures the fey, folky, Steely Dan-tinged feel of O'Rourke's Drag City solo work to the hilt. With its shuffling drums; intricately layered guitars, banjos, and vibes; and pleas for intimacy undercut by irony, the song recalls not only Insignificance but also the Halfway to a Threeway EP, which featured Kotche on drums as well. On the rest of Loose Fur, the trio's creative energies are more evenly blended, albeit in quirky ways: the pretty, abstractly romantic "Chinese Apple" mixes sleepy, Tweedy-driven vocals with lilting guitars that bear a little more of O'Rourke's stamp than the Wilco frontman's. Tweedy and O'Rourke's contrasting vocal colors blend surprisingly well on both Loose Fur's most accessible tracks, like "You Were Wrong," which rivals either of these artists' best work, and on the more avant-garde songs such as "So Long," an atonal ballad with an awkward gait that results in the album's only less-than-successful experiment (though "If I said 'I love you,' I was talking to myself" is a classic O'Rourke lyric). The rambling instrumental "Liquidation Totale" represents all of Loose Fur's strengths and shortcomings: When three musicians sound this natural together, it's hard for them to know when to quit. All of the songs go on longer than they really need to and are lyrically slighter than Tweedy and O'Rourke's "A" material, but the album's meandering ends up being pleasant instead of boring -- it's like being privy to the porch-front jam session of three very talented friends. So while Loose Fur may not inspire new fans the way Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or Insignificance did, the already converted will find it very enjoyable.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares