Thursday, April 13, 2006


Longtime readers of this space might know of my love of the music of the Mekons (it's where the name of this blog originates, for one thing). Jon Langford, a main ringleader and founding member of the band, is also a talented visual artist who's just published a retrospective of his art in conjunction with a multi-media show he's been recently touring around the country. The book also includes a CD that collects acoustic versions of songs spanning the length of his career, and includes lyrics that more than amply complement the paintings. Langford uses old country music portraits, space age nostalgia and dios de la muerte imagery to give his outsider's take on the way we shove aside the old in this country to make way for the new.

Never content to rest on his laurels, he's also got a new CD out called Gold Brick (or Lies of the Great Explorers or Columbus at Guantanamo Bay). As you might gather from that rather lengthy title, the sorry state of the world and the U.S in particular are on Mr. Langford's mind. The songs never come off as preachy and stiff though, his oblique brainy humor takes care of that. Despite his reputation as one of the original punk rockers of '77, there's a grandeur and majesty in the music here that make the barbs and sarcasm seem all the more potent (he even does a cover of Procol Harum's epic Salty Dog). The closing song Lost in America (originally written for This American Life) is one of the best songs he's ever written, a poison pen love letter to the country he now calls home. Do yourself a favor, pop open a cold one and give a listen.

As an added bonus, here's Langford's manically hilarious take on this years's SXSW music fest, originally printed in the Austin Chronicle.