“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” It’s a well-worn phrase, but it hasn’t lost all its meaning – especially when you look at RESIST! – the new collection from Waco Brothers. What has changed is the events and people that make the news. What remains the same is the relevance of this collection of protest songs recorded throughout the 25-year career of Waco Brothers.
The band sets the tone by kicking of the album with the foot-stomping “Blink of an Eye.” This song is propelled by the beat while the chorus will have you singing – or even shouting – along. This song is more about perspective than protest, especially with the lyrics, “The president’s just half a man riding in some giant’s hand.” The point being that for all of us (including the president, no matter who is in the position) our time here is fleeting.
Protest may not be have the right connotation for some of the songs on this album. It’s closer to the truth to say that these songs champion the working person. “Lincoln Town Car” celebrates the labor that put together the car that carries some “important” person. “Plenty Tough Union Made” is a pretty self-explanatory title that celebrates union workers. In that regard, it shares some similarity to Billy Bragg.
Throughout the album, you’re reminded that part of the charm of this band is how it can blend fist-pumping punk with twangy honk-tonk sounds. “No Heart” is a good example. The rhythm section (Leopard Boy Goulding on drums and Al Doughty on bass) moves this song along at a furious tempo while the lead guitar by Deano Schlabowske is pure punk and the vocals bring Jason Ringenberg to mind. Meanwhile, the song also features some pedal steel that is enough to get you two-stepping. In contrast is “Never Real”. This is a slower tempo song that is perfect for slow dancing and reminiscent of Waylon Jennings – especially in the bass line.
“Bad Times Are Coming Round Again” might be the greatest testament on this album. This is a foot-stomping song with a swinging melody and a bass line that sounds like something out of a Johnny Cash song. It’s so catchy that you don’t stop dancing even when you hear the lyrics, “Board up your window. It might be a hurricane. Bad times are coming round again.”
This album is not only a good snapshot of Waco Brothers. It is also a tremendous example of how songs can be meaningful without sacrificing any of the things that make you want to pump your fist and sing the lyrics as loud as you can. On top of that, this is a good introduction if you haven’t been familiar with the band before now. RESIST! (Bloodshot Records) will be available everywhere on February 28. Order your copy here.