• The Wacos hold a pretty dim view of society (god love ‘em!), but they make it sound so bloody fun, you’d never notice.

    — Big Takeover
  • Time-honored country-punk formula of Half-Cash/Half-Clash, with the sound turned way up and the polish way, way down.

    — Rolling Stone
  • These boozy boys spit out country anthems for bitter grownups, songs that beg to be played with the volume cranked.  And when your yuppie neighbor bangs on the ceiling with a broom, you can twist the dial and let the Wacos tell him where to go.

    — The Stranger
  • The Waco Brothers are engaged in the righteous endeavor of connecting progressive impulses in American country/folk -- from dyed-in-the-wool lefty Woody Guthrie to pure products of old-time religion, such as Johnny Cash to the radical political aims of British punk. They're a band whose unlikely aim is to turn the American country song into a Molotov cocktail.

    — Memphis Weekly Wire
  • Smart and funny, pissed-off and tender-hearted, the Waco Brothers grabbed alt-country’s moral and musical high ground with 1995 debut, and they’ve never surrendered it. The Wacos connect traditional honky-tonk despair with leftist political analysis for the hardest roots-rock country around.

    — CMJ New Music
  • What makes the band a force to behold live is their refusal of subtlety. With three lead singers, a three-guitar lineup and a punk rock rhythm section, the band commits at a high level and rarely relents.

    — The Daily Herald
  • The band's songbook is filled with political parables fused to a lost highway aesthetic and loads of black humor... pass the bottle and turn up the jukebox.

    — Time Out Chicago
  • ...and dancers of all stripes jumped into the uproar on the tiny platform of a stage, seemingly destroying the barrier between band and audience. As the last bits of the tumultuous sound faded away, the crowd picked up the slack, cheering with all their might. A feeling of exhilaration permeated the air, leaving all assembled smiling the knowing smile. They'd been to rock & roll nirvana, and life just couldn't be any better.

    — Austin Chronicle SXSW
  • Possessed by the demon of rock'n'roll, haunted by the ghosts of old country music... to make matters better, the group's originals are so consistently inspired they come across as instant classics.

    — Billboard
  • The Wacos infuse lefty outrage into rollicking roots songs that lambaste Bush, Christian conservatives, commercial radio, and society in general enough to please any political hardcore band.

    — Onion AV Club
Hometown: 
Chicago, IL

The Waco Brothers have been standing at the corner of punk urgency and Three-Chords-And-The-Truth country for 20 years now. They started at a time when it was deemed patently absurd to mix the two types of music, but the Wacos knew the score; they are different sides of the same coin, the personal wrapped in the political. And instead of travelling calculated creative boulevards during their career, the Waco Brothers have explored dark alleys and winding gravel paths through nine releases, all with the headlights off and the pedal to the metal, worrying (or not worrying) about end results later. With a body of work known for the indelicate and raucous, this may be their most deliberate and punchy yet—no one’s more dangerous than a man with nothing to lose. The title can be read two different ways, after all.

With a devil-may-care attitude towards polish and finesse, Going Down in History captures the thrill ride rush of the Waco Brothers’ live shows. Through the improvisational and fluid approach they adopted at Chicago’s Kingsize Sound Labs with longtime collaborator Mike Hagler at the knobs, the songs took on a muscularity and cohesiveness of an album unlike any previous Wacos recordings. Their pioneering Cash-meets-Clash jet engine mash up is still there, to be sure, but the Wacos have turned their well-scuffed boot heels towards their roots as never before. They have gone back to the future, down in history to celebrate and transform that which came before them.

Going Down in History pulses with the energy and excitement of first wave garage punk and ‘70s glam that first captivated singer/guitarist Jon Langford (Mekons, Skull Orchard, Pine Valley Cosmonauts). “We Know It” and “Building Our Own Prison” are distorted T. Rex via Bo Diddley-beat punk that will get you grooving towards the end times. “Receiver,” a gritty pub crawl from Wire to Dead Weather, and the short-circuiting grind of “Devil’s Day” harken back to singer/guitarist Deano’s time in the Chicago noise rock scene with his band Wreck. The raspy, push and pull tension of the title track, with its hard-learned life credo “you gotta walk before you can fall down on your face” might make it the Patron Song of Lost Causes. At the heart of the record is the Small Faces’ “All or Nothing,” a liberating, sing-to-the-skies rock and roll masterpiece, brimming with jagged guitars, booming drums and rousing organ. Ian McLagan, The Faces’ keyboardist (who died in 2014), was both hero and friend to the Wacos, and the song is permanently dedicated to him. Wrapping up the album is a cover of Texas songwriting ace Jon Dee Graham’s “Orphan Song,” cementing the Wacos’ cosmic link between Chicago and Austin.

With an improbable longevity, an impeccable rock and roll resume, and a go-for-broke live personae that can distract from the sharpness of their subject matters, it can be easy to take the Wacos for granted. But what was true at the beginning of the siege remains so today: in these fraught times, no one’s out there writing and performing with the political and personal so intertwined. Like a strange, colorful and possibly poisonous toad that lies dormant in the mud of an Amazonian rain forest, only to emerge when it seems like it’s necessary, the Waco Brothers are back, and, perhaps, we need them now more than ever.

ABOUT THE WACO BROTHERS

Waco Brothers are a five-piece, mostly Chicago based band consisting of Dean Schlabowske and Joe Camarillo - both Dollar Store band members - and three British expats: Jon Langford (Mekons, Skull Orchard, Pine Valley Cosmonauts), Tracey Dear, and Alan Doughty (Jesus Jones). The group’s most recent releases include Waco Express: Live & Kickin’ at Schuba’s Tavern (2008), Great Chicago Fire (2012), and Cabaret Showtime (2015) – respectively, a live recording, a joint project with Nashville songwriter Paul Burch, and a limited-quantity b-sides and covers album. Going Down in History is the group’s first formal studio album since 2005’s Freedom and Weep. Waco Brothers were initially forged in the mid-1990s as an outlet for rowdy live performances and to celebrate Chicago’s burgeoning country scene, and have since put out seminal, genre-defining albums, including To the Last Dead Cowboy, Cowboy in Flames, and others.

Compilation Tracks: 
Recommended if You Like: 
The Clash
The Pogues
Mekons
The Hold Steady
Jason & the Scorchers

Similar Bloodshot Artists