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Album Review

Class rage is something Jon Langford can practically do in his sleep by now; he's been serving up smart, bitterly witty (or simply bitter) rants about the growing divide between the privileged and the powerless since the years before Thatcher and Reagan began unweaving our social safety nets. But who knows if he had any idea what the world would be like after eight years of George W. Bush? 2010's Old Devils finds Jonboy sounding a lot more contemplative than usual, as if in the 21st Century he's beginning to think civilization may have finally met its match. Langford doesn't seem resigned on Old Devils, but it's unusually subtle and thoughtful stuff from a man who often likes his music with the Waco Brothers or the Mekons to be full of force, and this album sure sounds like the work of a man less confident in the value of shouting than he was a few years ago. Working with a more diverse collection of musicians than he has in the Waco Brothers, Old Devils opens with what sounds like a trademark Langford rocker about an unsettled culture in which we "Live for next week, live for last year," but the album's rock moves are cleaner and considerably more spare than usual, and the dashed hopes of "Luxury," "Haunted," "Death Valley Days" and "Strange Ways To Win Wars" are matched with a more subtle musical attack. Strings and horns decorate a few of these songs, and the pirate's tale of "Pieces of the Past" includes a recitation from Andre Williams, whose craggy voice gives the song just the right atmospheric tone. Langford isn't rocking as hard on Old Devils, but it gives his vocals more room to move, and he's rarely sung with as much strength and nuance as he does on these sessions. Jon Langford has never been anyone's idea of an optimist, and in many respects the biggest difference on Old Devils is that with less noise, the full impact of his well-founded cynicism is felt; the intelligence of the production and arrangements makes this impact all the more telling, and in a time when the world is looking for missing bits of our socio-political puzzle, the details are all the more important. With this music, Langford wants to be sure we're not missing anything — clearly, he's not missing a trick here.

Customer Reviews

Clean?

What the hell is up with iTunes only offering "clean" versions of so many albums? We don't even get a choice anymore of which version we want? Has Apple appointed itself some sort of arbiter of Puritanical morality? This is one of the big reasons I don't buy any music on iTunes anymore.

Old Devils, Jon Langford & Skull Orchard
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