A fresh take on previous music
The Waco Brothers newest release compiles a dozen recordings from past albums going as far back as their 1995 release To The Last Dead Cowboy united by their bombast and nostalgia under the title RESIST!. The Chicago-based country trio has made a name over the past two decades with a punk-inflected brand of the genre and the new compilation encourages listeners to take a second look at the messages behind the band’s music.
The landscapes and imagery of the album are unmistakably American. On “Fast Train Down,” the band looks “from the shores of the Atlantic to that evil desert town.” On “See Willy Fly By” they dream about being able to “build me a house on a mountain so high.” The album’s second track is even titled “Lincoln Town Car” taking advantage of the car’s dual status as a symbol of American manufacturing (“that’s a piece of Detroit, the pride of workers”) and an icon of luxury and the elite.
Such familiar themes are accompanied by the distinctive sound of American country music, with its straightforward and unpretentious musical structure, overlapping guitars both acoustic and electric and Jon Langford’s wonderfully husky voice which could sound at home in a traditional folk tune or on today’s popular country radio stations. However, straightforwardness is not to be confused with simplicity for The Waco Brothers use these familiar structures to permit their own musical and thematic exploration.
The songs are more aggressive and direct and political than is typical of country music. The Waco Brothers sound reflects frustration but is also personal and relatable and fun. What is especially impressive is how the familiar yet unique sound parallels their thematic content of the album which deftly analyzes what they see as contradictions in familiar images. Though they sing about places and events that seem familiar to many, they always sing from an intimate perspective that doesn’t forget the individual.
RESIST! draws on music from To The Last Dead Cowboy, Cowboy in Flames, Freedom and Weep and several others.
The title RESIST! perhaps clumsily implies simplicity or elegantly withholds the album’s message until listeners delve further in. The album is certainly an entertaining compilation of some of the Waco Brothers’ best tunes, but its title and release feel timely. However, the album never outright states what it implores us to resist, so they and I leave it to listeners to decide exactly what they mean.