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“I have a poet friend who writes long and entirely unprintable verses beginning, ‘What are you, Wales, but a tired old bitch?’ and ‘Wales my country, Wales my sow,”’ Dylan Thomas once recalled. Like his fellow Welshman, Jon Langford has spent his career in exile; he has rarely invoked the home country in his work for two of Leeds’ most important cult punk bands, the now-defunct (and much-missed) Three Johns and the never-say-die Mekons. Along with Mark E. Smith, another hard-drinking workaholic from British punk’s Class of ’77, Langford still makes vital, if wildly uneven, records: His recent Chicago-based side projects, the Waco Brothers and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, exploit old country music’s dark themes and blue-collar defiance. In his first solo effort, Skull Orchard, Langford finally addresses a long-tardy postcard back home, and he’s full of rage at what has become of the Wales he left behind, a land of shut-down coal mines and toxic dumps, now undergoing rampant Americanization. Conjuring both the Three Johns’ punk abrasiveness and the Mekons’ skewed-country stylings, Skull Orchard’s sound is nothing new, but the songs are among Langford’s best in years, from the sea chantey “Pill Sailor” (“A pit bull tattoo/One good eye of blue”) to the lovely ballad “Youghal,” about the filming of John Huston’s Moby Dick in a tiny Welsh fishing village. Skull Orchard is the work of a lapsed Marxist who can’t help making the personal political and vice versa, and by the album’s closer, “Tom Jones Levitation,” a denunciation of nostalgia that still manages to sound homesick, Langford sings like a man who can’t stop his bitter heart from breaking.—Eddie Dean