James McMurtry: Just Us Kids

Music Reviews James McMurtry
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James McMurtry: Just Us Kids

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.