More slings ’n’ arrows from master of dark social commentary
If we ever appoint a sarcasm-slinging cynic laureate, James McMurtry’s a shoo-in
. On Just Us Kids
, he continues skewering our current gang of good ol’ boys with the same venomous barbs he threw on Childish Things
. “God Bless America (pat mAcdonald must die)” contains the couplet, “That thing don’t run on french-fry grease / That thing don’t run on love and peace,” punctuated by harmonica from comrade-in-irony mAcdonald (Timbuk 3), and “Cheney’s Toy” is even snarkier. But it’s the ache of “Ruby and Carlos” that reveals McMurtry’s sensitive brilliance as a chronicler of quiet desperation (though even here, he can’t resist a jibe about “the Mason-Dumbass Line”). McMurtry produced this record, and allowed himself some much-needed melodic stretching room; the chorus of “Just Us Kids” almost has a “Girls in their Summer Clothes” lilt, and keyboardist Ian McLagan turns “Freeway View” into a runaway goodtime rocker. But don’t fear that our sourpuss will get happy anytime soon. It’s not like Utopia’s imminent—even after Cheney’s toy has left the building.