Quasi-Alt. Country Folk Meets The Punk Rockers Uptown
If I’m being brutally honest I’ve always liked the ‘idea’ of the Mekons more than their actual music; and that includes seeing them live several times alongside a couple of pals who are more or less tribal followers.
But, that might actually finally change with this album, their 22nd (?) full length album.
It was probably opening track Lawrence of California that won me over last week; with the pumping bass and Quasi-Alt. Country Twang masking an articulate, nay poetic Folk Ballad of epic proportions ……. quite perfect for a midnight drive home from work in a mood as dark as the Black Hole of Calcutta.
It’s quite an uncompromising start; and to misquote someone else, The Mekons ‘start with a bang and move upwards!”
Mercifully for me, the songs here are more on the Folky spectrum of their combined talents than the noiseniks that I saw at the Riverside in Newcastle; with How Many Stars being almost pastoral as Tom Greenhalgh’s deadpan vocals unravel a magical and occasionally mystical tale.
For Alt. Country fans like what I am; The Mekons are a veritable Who’s Who of the genre, with many being the backbone of some of my favourite Bloodshot albums.
I have a couple of Sally Timms albums and when she comes to the fore on In The Desert and the punchy Electro-Punk of Into The Sun (alongside Jonboy Langford?) a much maligned genre becomes very cool indeed.
That’s the joy, but not the biggest surprise that this album has to offer; the sum of all the individual talents combine to go off on a multitude of tangents yet remain a quintessential Mekons album.
Where to go for a Favourite Track? Who knows, as every song here will appeal to different people for different and often quite extraordinary reasons.
Weimar Vending Machine is dark and brooding; and really touched a spot that first cold night?
Tom Greenhalgh droll vocals brings an acid drenched excitement to HARAR 1883; and the lyrics are quite mind bending too making it a contender.
But; and this may even be controversial among the more astute longstanding Mekons fans; I’m plumping for the quirky and, dare I say it…… poppy Andromeda. It’s as left-field as The Mekons get….. and boy can they go way, way out left! In my defense it’s just four and a half minutes of gorgeous musical wizardry that sums up what the Mekons are, and should be. A tune that can’t decide if it’s Folk, Indie or World, an array of classic and even classical instruments that shouldn’t work together but do; a singer who wouldn’t get past the auditions on X-Factor and a weird set of lyrics that has me singing along the the odd line or two.
What’s not to like?
Not for the first or indeed the last time this year I’ve fallen in love with an album that “Isn’t for everyone” and that’s intentional ……. The Mekons tread their very own idiosyncratic path that leads the listener into dark, dangerous territories that will scare the casual listener; but the musical world is a much better place for bands and albums like this.