Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Jon Langford

  • Skull Orchard [Sugar Free, 1998] A-
  • Gravestone EP [Bloodshot, 1998] ***
  • All the Fame of Lofty Deeds [Bloodshot, 2004] A
  • Gold Brick [ROIR, 2006] *

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Skull Orchard [Sugar Free, 1998]
The difference is palpable. The Mekons, Waco Brothers, Killer Shrews, and I forget who are/were groups that couldn't do without Langford, whereas this is Langford deploying backup musicians, aides-d'arte who happen to be Wacos as well. There's no band feel, no sense of music-in-process--the garrulous artiste is audibly up top, organizing structural support for a sheaf of good tunes, and while the best of these is courteously passed on to Gertrude Stein, who wrote the words to "Butter Song," all the rest belong to Jonboy. Anyone who's tried to keep up with his one-liners knows he's an articulate bastard, but he's better off when he doesn't have to get to the end in 75 words or less, which is why his country band has always thrived on covers. Here he runs on, confessing his antisocial tendencies like the singer-songwriter he temporarily is--without forgetting that capitalism is antisocial too. A-

Gravestone EP [Bloodshot, 1998]
Two enduring rerecorded highlights, one fine recycled obscurity, one excellent new song, mail-order only ("Nashville Radio," "The Return of the Golden Guitarist"). ***

All the Fame of Lofty Deeds [Bloodshot, 2004]
Purportedly a concept album in which Mr. Deeds goes to Nashville because he's outgrown his band, and life will never be the same because fame can do that (also death). Actually a bunch of songs in which Mr. Langford goes to Chicago because he can't stand Margaret Thatcher, and life will never be the same because George W. Bush can do that (also Satan). The "hard road that always brings you back" has brought him back to where he once escaped, so now he's considering Switzerland, yodel-ay-ee-oooo. True love aside, how the hell did he wind up in America? "The country is young . . . not too good on the sharing," so let the zombies tear it apart. Only he loves its music, which sustains him even in the absence of one of the ad hoc bands he'll never outgrow--the arrangements, early Cash with extras, are as committed as the singing we've learned to assume. The glory of America at war with its shame, and don't bet it'll hold up its head forever. A

Gold Brick [ROIR, 2006]
Music for some occasions ("Workingman's Palace," "Lost in America"). *

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