Jon Langford 

Gold Brick

Even with artistic conduits the Mekons, Waco Brothers, and Pine Valley Cosmonauts, UK-via-Chicago guitarist Jon Langford still finds time for the occasional solo album. Forgoing the punk-arty, boisterous, and roots-y aspects of his résumé, Gold Brick is perhaps the most musically accomplished and mainstream-sounding album Langford has ever done — and that's not intended as negative criticism. Throughout, his band has the sterling expertise more closely associated with Dylan, Hiatt, and Springsteen than (most) "alternative" rock, yet Langford isn't selling out or buying in. His slightly burred vocals still burn with humanity and conviction, and his lyrics are more scathingly political than ever while avoiding smug preaching-to-the-converted-ness. "Buy It Now" and "Tall Ships" (Piled up with cargo nobody needs) subtly indict acquisitiveness, and the haunting, sublimely resigned "Invisible Man" (referring to Ralph Ellison's novel?) features an Everyman caught in the wheels of History where there's "change" but precious little rightful improvement. Gold Brick may well be Langford's very own Blood on the Tracks.

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