Wilco, the once alt-country band that expanded its palette to more experimental fare, performs at Seattle's Paramount Theatre Tuesday, Feb. 7. The band is on a roll, with its 2011 album "The Whole Love" making many top 10 lists and frontman Jeff Tweedy appearing in a new Popeye the Sailor Man cartoon — in which...

Share story

For nearly a century, Popeye the Sailor Man’s main rival for the affections of Olive Oyl has been brutal Bluto.

But now poor Popeye has to worry about a more lyrical adversary: Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy.

On Jan. 25, King Features released the first hand-drawn animated short starring Popeye in 30 years. No ordinary cartoon, the black-and-white clip is a music video for Wilco’s cheerfully dark “Dawned On Me,” a track from the 18-year-old rock and roll band’s Grammy-nominated 2011 album, “The Whole Love.”

The weirdly irresistible video finds a more groomed version of the typically scruffy Tweedy winning Olive Oyl’s heart, though Wilco co-founder and bassist John Stirratt swoons for her as well.

King “came to us and we were wary,” says Stirratt by phone from Los Angeles. “There’s a lot of Wilco out there, and we worried this might be too much. But we were pleased with it.”

Indeed, Wilco has been in the headlights for some months, beginning with the late-September release of “The Whole Love,” arguably their most adventurous and captivating recording since the band’s 2002 “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”

“The Whole Love” was named on a number of year-end, best-of lists, and Wilco followed up with television appearances and a tour that brings Tweedy, Stirratt and company to Seattle’s Paramount on Tuesday.

Reviews of recent shows — with their half-hour encores — indicate a strong, somewhat retrospective set with frequently thrilling performances.

Stirratt says Wilco’s lineup, including several experiment-prone virtuosos, has mastered Wilco’s entire, extensive catalog and brings energy and joy to it.

“The band really forged in the studio, and everything since has come out of that,” he says. “It’s good that Jeff and I are the nucleus, going back to the beginning. The lineup now feels definitive to me, but for fans, other, past lineups might be definitive.”

Formed in 1994 after the breakup of Tweedy’s group Uncle Tupelo, Wilco was initially branded alternative country.

But Tweedy, Wilco’s songwriter, vocalist, guitarist and leader, shook that off, building on a variety of influences that ultimately led to the sonically adventurous and well-received “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”

Wilco made the most of deadline-free, creative freedom on “The Whole Love,” with its endless pop hooks basking in audacious, electronic textures.

“We had a lot of time to record, ” says Stirratt. “We could go anywhere, and that gave the album its sprawling feeling. There were so many options finding sounds and melodies, and building tracks, it was almost daunting.”

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@gmail.com.