Monday, July 31, 2006

dynamic duo

richard buckner & jon langford - 'sir dark invader vs. the fanglord'

released: may 31, 2005
running time: 30'43"
buried treasure

songs: 1. rolling of the eyes 2. nothing to show 3. sweet anybody 4. from attic to basement 5. torn apart 6. stayed 7. the inca princess 8. no tears tonight 9. do you wanna go somewhere?

This record could not have been released on a better titled label for it than Buried Treasure Records. This collaboration is indeed a treasure, and one that could have easily remained buried, having been shelved for almost three years before its release. A treasure, mostly because of its uniqueness and improbability. You'd be hard pushed to find less likely indie musicians to hook up and make a record than introspective Richard Buckner (the dark invader, in case you were wondering) and expansive Jon Langford (yes, the fanglord), well known for his work in punk pioneers The Mekons and in country-punks Waco Brothers. Yet hook up they did, in a Chicago apartment where they hung out together for a week in 2002 and came up with these nine songs.

It all seems to indicate a disjointed effort, and it is, in a way, but not in a bad way. You have back-to-back songs like 'Rolling Of The Eyes', a catchy, lively rocker, and 'Nothing To Show', a rather mournful lament of emptiness, that somehow seem to fit together perfectly. This happens because, unlike what could be expected (and what they jokingly try to make you expect with the confrontational title and cover), it's not rocker Jon doing the uptempo ones and alt-country gloomer Richard doing the slow ones. The pair trade vocal harmonies and instrumentation (not to mention lyrics and writing duties as well) seemingly at will, and they end up sounding like old collaborators who know each other inside out. That's talent for you.

The best thing about this record is the various levels on which it might be taken. On a more superficial level, with that silly cover (and whole booklet artwork) and the more upbeat songs like 'The Inca Princess' and 'Torn Apart', you have a cool collection of songs that you can play, say, while you drive, and have good fun with. Look deeper though, and you'll find real depth to the songs and the lyrics, along with a very truthful world-weariness in lines like nothing to show for the things that i've done / there were places to go and i had to choose this one / i had some dreams in my head, had some tricks up my sleeve / but i'll be lucky to leave with my life, which opens the aforementioned 'Nothing To Show'. This kind of hurt sincerity is also very present in the way the album ends, with the beautiful 'Do You Wanna Go Somewhere?' apparently being left halfway through, both men stopping their instruments and leaving you hanging, wondering.

Since this is a very clear one-off, it's likely that we'll hang forever. At least, and unlike that lyric states, these guys really left something to show for what they did that week in Chicago.

the good: surprisingly good result for an unlikely pairing, authentic, lasting collection of songs spanning several moods
the bad: understandably not as cohesive as each man's individual work, a one-off we'll probably won't hear again

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