Waco Brothers


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Assembling a collection of the Waco Brothers' best political songs would be a bit like compiling a similar anthology drawn from Toby Keith's songs about beer and/or patriotism: you have chosen a theme that filters out practically nothing in their body of work. Just about everything Jon Langford writes is filtered through the lens of the class struggle, even when he sings about drinking (his second favorite theme), and Dean Schlabowske's contributions are only marginally less concerned with life among the working class. So putting out an album of rabble-rousing anthems from the Waco Brothers seems about the same as making a greatest -hits album, though the latter doesn't seem to be quite the right description for Resist!, a politically oriented compilation that spans their career from 1995's … To the Last Dead Cowboy to 2005's Freedom and Weep (leaving out two studio albums, 2012's Great Chicago Fire, a collaboration with Paul Burch, and 2016's Going Down in History). Considering the twangy fury of the Waco Brothers' finest music, Resist! feels a tiny a bit placid, with fine but midtempo numbers like "Never Real" and "Lincoln Town Car" slowing down what should have been a full-on leftist hoedown, and though "$ Bill the Cowboy" was a smart and cutting takedown of Bill Clinton in 1995, in 2020 it seems rather quaint with Donald Trump in the White House. That said, "Bad Times Are Coming 'Round Again" seems even more relevant today than when it first came out, "Plenty Tough, Union Made" is the best labor-organizing song of the past 30 years, "See Willy Fly By" remains an inspiring bit of rage and fury, and their covers of "I Fought the Law" and "Revolution Blues" are inspired, reworked to their own exacting specifications. The Waco Brothers' singular blend of hard, twangy country-punk filtered through the lens of an increasingly divided and unequal society is music that speaks to the mind and the body with equal eloquence: few, if any bands who are so explicitly political are as much sweaty, unbridled fun as the Waco Brothers. Resist! isn't the ideal summary of the group's catalog or the best introduction to their music, but it leaves no question that they're a great band with a tremendous amount of important things to say, and it'll go over at a party far better than your Noam Chomsky spoken word recordings.

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