Langford's still sailing
Jon Langford - Gold Brick (or Lies of the Great Explorers
Review by Tony BonyataAlthough the ever prolific artist Jon Langford has just released only his fourth proper solo effort, entitled Gold Brick (or Lies of the Great Explorers or Columbus at Guantanamo Day), it's just a drop in the bucket for a musician who's working credits over the past thirty years include dozens of recordings with his other bands - The Mekons, Pine Valley Cosmonauts, The Waco Brothers, Three Johns, Ship & Pilot Band along with various other collaborations.
Gold Brick finds the expatriate Welshman exploring the landscape and social deterioration of his now adopted U.S.A. through the eyes of a makeshift Midwestern (Langford now calling Chicago his home). Taking a swipe at crass commercialism the singer laments, "buy It now before it's gone, growing up wrong" on the piano-driven pop of "Buy It Now," before the wrecking ball makes way for urban growth and renewal on the decidedly more rocking number "Gorilla & The Maiden," featuring a wonderfully demented violin solo from Jean Cook. Luckily, or pitifully (depending on which side of the bar you're sitting on), the artist finds solace at the local city tavern in "Workingman's Palace," a place perfectly suited to wallow in self-pity as he sings, " everybody's feeling strange about their lives and who's to blame. Trying not to sink under the challenge. I'll meet you at the Workingman's Palace."
On "Dreams of Leaving" Langford seems to pine for the land he left behind when confronted with 'mega-slums in mega-cities' where you can 'taste the air in the back of your throat.' And it's the ghosts of his Welsh countryside living on the modern streets and in the sties of American cities that makes this album so engaging. As if questioning his own move across the ocean, the singer revisits Procol Harum's 1969 "A Salty Dog," as if he was the ship's captain from the song forever stranded in this new land. His quest for new life and land continues to be questioned through the poignant "Tall Ships," that's "piled up with cargo that nobody needs,' and the closing track "Lost in America," which alludes that the grass isn't any greener here in the States than where Christopher Columbus - and Langford himself - originally journeyed from. Musically and compositionally - with beautiful, melodic arrangements from a tight-but-understated rock quintet augmented with complimenting orchestration and challenging prose where Langford looks deep into both our society and himself - Gold Brick turns out to be one of his most mature, consistent and engaging recordings to date - exposing both his and our warts in the process.
Jon Langford's Ship & Pilot will be performing Saturday, April 22 at Mad Planet, 533 E. Center St., Milwaukee, WI (414) 263-4555
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