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Waco Brothers

Bloodshot

As a rule, rock ‘n’ roll supergroups are supposed to suck. So are the Waco Brothers akin to Emerson Lake & Palmer? Well, sort of—which is just one of the band’s better jokes. Whatever celebrity is provided by the membership of Mekon Jon Langford is offset nicely by the fact that nearly half of the Wacos’ songs are sung by Dean Schlabowske, who’s famous mainly for being from Milwaukee. Electric Waco Chair is the hard-workin’ Wacos’ fifth record for blue-collar Chicago indie Bloodshot. The disc’s prevailing wisdom is that country-flavored roots rock is the working stiff’s spiritual tonic—not a terribly original thought, but the Wacos make the most of matters by living what they preach. Noted socialist Langford is perhaps the most believable country lyricist ever born in England; his “Walking on Hell’s Roof Looking at the Flowers” is frank in its pessimism (“History is written by the winner/This is a loser’s song”) and giddy to the end. That the album’s music is routinely less edgy than the lyrics is a disservice to Schlabowske; his voice has neither the grit nor the fire of Langford’s, causing some of the songs he sings to sound deadly earnest even when they’re not. Still, the Wacos hardly consider earnestness a crime: On “When I Get My Rewards,” Langford unfurls the kind of love song that has given the economically unfortunate reasons to believe for over a century. Who’s to say that you can’t stare down the apocalypse with a smile? —Brett Anderson