First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2006, Volume 13, #2
Written by John Metzger
Busy co-fronting The Waco Brothers, reuniting The Mekons, working with The Pine Valley Cosmonauts to put an end to the death penalty, and constructing a series of contemporary paintings, it took Jon Langford eight years to concoct his second (proper) solo outing All the Fame of Lofty Deeds. Emboldened by the accolades that he received for the slapdash effort, which was recorded in a week, he didn’t wait nearly as long to unveil his third foray Gold Brick. On the surface, the albums are strikingly similar — right down to their tuneful melodies, populist politics, and Procol Harum covers. What’s different, however, is Langford’s approach. Where All the Fame of Lofty Deeds was imbued with countrified simplicity, Gold Brick — the full title of which is Gold Brick (or Lies of The Great Explorers or Columbus at Guantanamo Bay) — is adorned with lustrous, more luxuriant, and, at times, downright majestic textures. Although he avoids the employment of an actual symphony, he manages to mimic one by fusing fiddle with the plucking of mandolin and dobro to give Invisible Man an orchestrated ambience, while in E Street Band fashion, he blends the grandeur of Phil Spector with the street-corner poetry of Bob Dylan to erect the explosive All Roads Lead Back to Me. Elsewhere, the combination of snaking guitar and elegant piano on Workingman’s Palace draws to mind a collaboration between Mark Knopfler and Steve Nieve, while Little Bit of Help keeps one foot firmly planted in the roadhouse, even as its backing vocals turn Beatle- or, at the very least, Costello-esque. With so much on his plate, there undoubtedly have been times when Langford’s songs have been written from a formulaic perspective, but on Gold Brick, he routinely shatters his mold and ambitiously redefines himself as a purveyor of carefully crafted folk-pop rather than as a conduit for his customarily country-tinged, Clash-driven swagger. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box