Waco Brothers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Waco Brothers 

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On their recently released fifth album, Electric Waco Chair (Bloodshot), the Waco Brothers haven't quite captured the drunken energy that fuels their live shows, but they come a lot closer than they did on last year's glossy-sounding Wacoworld. They're still moving steadily away from the Clash-meets-Cash aesthetic of their earliest work, sounding more than anything like a bar band with their deep repertoire of rootsy originals. What distinguishes them most these days is their smarts: while the album title and cover take aim at capital punishment, of which Jon Langford is an outspoken opponent, most of the songs address the more subtle ways society inflicts pain. Langford observes his own physical deterioration in the context of the young man's game that is rock 'n' roll in "It's Not Enough" and bemoans the "long trudge round the victory lap of style over content and cash into crap" that is American culture on "Nothing to Say," while Dean Schlabowske paints a grim picture of the Sisyphean travails of a traveling salesman (read: midlevel rock musician) in "Circle Tour," noting, "The road you head out on is the road you left behind." Their outlook's not entirely bleak, though: in "Fox River," about the people who choose to live on the water despite the probability of a flood, Schlabowske finds a certain dignity in accepting the power of nature. The Wacos' ubiquitousness for most of the 90s has caused many of us to take the band for granted, but with drummer Steve Goulding living in New York, local gigs have been significantly less frequent--this might be the right time to stop saying you'll see them another time. Friday, December 22, 8:30 PM, Harrigan's, 2816 N. Halsted; 773-248-5933. Friday, December 29, 9:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont; 773-281-4444.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Paul Natkin.

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