Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Jon Langford & Skull Orchard

  • Old Devils [Bloodshot, 2010] B+
  • Here Be Monsters [In De Goot, 2014] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Old Devils [Bloodshot, 2010]
"Live for next week/Live for last year," the 52-year-old advises devilishly and also oldly in the lefthand panel of a triptych about aging that's completed by the unfinished "Book of Your Life" and the killing "Getting Used to Uselessness." After that, fittingly but dishearteningly (although under the circumstances that's fitting too), the songcraft wends its way gradually downhill; not even the title track provides much of a rise. Only then comes a finale called "Strange Ways to Win Wars" and Langford is on top of things again--not young because he's not that kind of liar, just strong and clear-eyed as he quietly and suggestively surveys our disheartening politics: "And no one is spared, no one is spared/No one is spared, no one is spared." B+

Here Be Monsters [In De Goot, 2014]
Once it hits home, the opening "Summer Stars" could be the gravest song of his life, a threnody for an earth ruined by the ecological/economic catastrophe most of us foresee in our grimmer moments--a vision no less vivid or plausible for its reliance on metaphor. The metaphors that follow are easier to duck and in the case of the amelodic "Mars" ignore. But starting midway in with "Drone Operator," the lyrics become more pointed, one political indictment after another, with Langford's precisely articulated, barely contained rage his version of what they call soul. Sing it, brother. A-