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The Waco Brothers - Going Down In History (Bloodshot Records)

22 February 2016

You can’t kill us/We’re already dead…

So begins the first studio album in ten years from Chicago’s beloved Waco Brothers, formed by Mekon Jon Langford along with Dean Schlabowske and Joe Camarillo – (Dollar Store), Tracey Dear and Alan Doughty (Jesus Jones). Originally thought of as a side outlet for the “country” side of Langford, the Wacos became renowned for their rambunctious live performances and sharp, insightful topics on record, but other than a few live records and a brill matchup with Nashville illuminous Paul Burch on 2012’s Great Chicago Fire, they’ve been largely silent for a decade. Langford, of course, never rests. He’s had several solo records, a reunion of his 1980s punk band The Three Johns as well as providing the artwork for the Dylan and the Nashville Cats exhibit, currently at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

But who knows how long this avenue will exist for Langford and the Wacos? The first song, “DIYBYOB” begins with “This is the first song on our last album”, but if this is a swansong, it’s a fine note to exit on. The band no longer sounds like the “Cash meets The Clash” of their early efforts (although Tracey Dear still holds his own on mandolin amid the guitars), but they aren’t a sound-alike of the Mekons either. No, the Waco Brothers are an American band, even when they usurp T. Rex on “Receiver” or deliver a heartfelt farewell to good friend Ian McLagan on the Small Faces “All or Nothing”. The Waco’s hold a pretty dim view of society (god love ‘em!) as evidenced by “Building Our Own Prison” or “Going Down In History”, but they make it sound so bloody fun, you’d never notice. When the record ends with “Orphan Song” from legendary Texas songwriter Jon Dee Graham, you’ll know you’ve been Waco’d. And we’re hoping this ain’t the end of the fun.