Friday, November 28, 2008

Katjonband -- Katjonband

Katjonband -- Katjonband (Carrot Top)

Jon Langford is a Chicago treasure. Ever since he relocated The Mekons here, he’s reliably cranked out song after song of politically aware folk-rock, which then gets transformed into whatever style he and his mates are working in at the time. It might be the rock or country of The Mekons, the twangy garage of the Waco Brothers, the western swing of The Pine Valley Cosmonauts, or perhaps something different on a Langford solo project.

The Katjonband was foreshadowed at the Touch & Go Records 25th Anniversary Festival at the Hideout in Chicago. There, Langford did a short set with Kat Bornefeld, the spectacular drummer for The Ex. And, pun totally intended, she’s the ‘X’ factor here, as her creative percussion takes Langford’s music into some new areas.

The album is bookended by songs that show how Kat’s drumming brings a fresh snap to Langford songs that tread upon familiar territory. Or rather, familiar but necessary territory, as Langford looks out for the little guy and calls out tyranny where he sees it.

The album opener, “Do You?”, is insinuating as hell, with Bornefeld pounding out the polyrhythm, with Langford jabbing at his guitar in sympathy. The two chew on buzzwords and cliches in a call-and-response duet, showing that cynicism can be funky and full of frivolity.

It takes a while for closer “Red Flag” to hit full force. The song starts off with a Gang Of Four-esque guitar squall and then builds the atmosphere, as Bornefeld’s soft drumming gets faster and faster and Langford keeps pace on the guitar. The song then settles into ranting vocals and smash-and-crash drumming with a seething militaristic fury underneath. The song simmers and boils over in appealing fashion.

And the appeal is more than musical. The delightful “Conquered” is a melodic duet with Langford playing the imperialist lover and Bornefeld the occupied nation. The lyrics are quite clever. But they don’t push the colonialism disguised as a dysfunctional romantic relationship card too hard, helped by Bornefeld’s appealing vocals. She has a stately quality to her voice and a real warmth, and she and Langford have true chemistry.

“Crackheads Beware” has a real poppy appeal. The song has a subtle ‘70s R & B bounce to it, aided by Bornefeld’s crisp drumming and a terrific guitar hook, aided by the easy to sing to tag line: “howling along/with the popular song.” This is pretty fun, and if you’re not careful, you might learn something.

While the bread and butter of this disc are the drums/guitar work outs where these two really cook (another example of this is “Machine Gun & the Ugly Doll”), but the duo also finds some time for jazzy twanging (“Moonscape Dave”), a dramatic rendering of a traditional folk song (“Albion”), and a nice mid-tempo country love (or not-in-love) song (“Hey You Don’t Love Me”).

This disc is so good, that I hope that it isn’t a one shot. But can Kat and Jon carve out the time from their busy schedules?

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