Our Favourite Noisenik Multi-Cultural Post-Punk Rockers Raise The Roof (Again)
To coincide with a short UK Tour and due to ‘public demand’ Bloodshot Records are finally releasing this 2016 Live Album in it’s own rite; and as a special treat we have asked Mekons fan and friend of RMHQ, singer-songwriter, famed producer and engineer Mr Roy Peak to have a listen and put his thoughts don on paper. Here’s the results.
When a band like the the Mekons decide to do a live album they say the hell with 48-channel digital consoles and four packed nights at the Royal Albert Hall. They pick a small, tight room in Brooklyn, fill it with rowdy fans, and then the band crowds around a single microphone—mixing be damned!—and they send the results out into the world. Sure, this isn’t Abbey Road Recording Studio quality, but it does make for a damn interesting document, fitting in these hardened, topsy-turvy times we all live in.
(The video document that captured this recording, called Mekonception, shows more than one microphone. I suspect these were for the live mix in the room for the audience, mostly to amplify the vocals and add some effects to the sounds. The sound engineer part of me would like to know more how all this was accomplished as the sound is full, well rounded, nearly perfectly balanced, and stereo friendly—it sounds awesome in headphones!—and fantastic on my old 1970s Pioneer with thrift store speakers.)
Now that’s out of the way, what about the performances, the songs, the attitude? I’m happy to announce that if you’re a longtime Mekons fan you should be more than satisfied. I have a feeling the Mekons would fit right in during the dada art movement of the early twentieth century, as an art-house drinking band, their rolling singalongs shaking the walls of the Cabaret Voltaire. The band pulls no punches politically, and plays with their usual mix of rowdy, crowded vocals and tight, taut rhythms wonderfully, adding some fun and unexpected vocal effects and swirling ambience throughout. These arrangements are exceedingly brave and well thought out down to the nth detail, and its amazing they pulled it off so effortlessly and still sound as if they were having the time of their life while doing so. From Gang of Four like rave-ups, to drunken singalongs, to the melting pot mish-mosh that is the Mekons musical oeuvre, this album feels so right and every song fits together in a manner nearly forgotten in today’s world of Spotify singles and NoiseTrade EPs. I love it when albums sound like albums and not one or two singles and a lot of filler material. It probably helps that this was recorded all together during a single focused performance, but still, the end result is breathtaking.
Nowadays whenever a reviewer mentions the Mekons they always add that they’re becoming more “Americana” all the time. I don’t hear that. To me the members of the Mekons always sound as if they’re having a blast which is something sorely lacking in many of the so-called Americana acts that are in abundance of late. Wilco are far too serious, Jason Isbell too dour, Steve Earle has so many chips on his shoulders it’s a wonder he can walk upright, and everyone has a “story” or a so-called “validating reason” they’re making a new album. (Writing this album saved me from addiction!” or “This album is all about the problems of bullying!” or “These songs represent my lifelong struggle with toe fungus and it was recorded on vintage all-analog equipment as that’s the only way for me to fully realize my vision!”)
The Mekons, even with all of their forthrightness and sense of responsibility, still manage to sound fun, throwaway, and relevant all at the same time, a true punk rock trick, incapable of being forced or insincere. As a Mekons fan I had high hopes for this album and it far exceeded my expectations. Fun, rocking, rollicking, and truly relevant, I plan on listening to this one quite often for quite a while.
Released June 2nd 2017
Roy Peak – http://www.roypeak.com/