Wednesday, March 05, 2003

This started out as an explanation of the context for some songs on a Mekons mix, but it became an album-by-album critique of the Mekons, so here it is.

"Dan Dare" is from The Quality of Mercy is Not Strnen, 1979. You should look up the album on to see the cover.

"Never Been in a Riot" is a single from the Fast Product label. I think it came out in 1978, but the compiled collection is mostly from 1979.

There is nothing from Devils, Rats, and Piggies, which I find to be mostly unlistenable crap.

"The Building" and "He Beat Up His Boyfriend" are from It Falleth Like a Gentle Rain From Heaven: The Mekons Story, another collection of singles from 1979-1982.

"Trouble Down South", "Hard to Be Human Again", and "Last Dance" are from Fear and Whiskey, 1985. This is when the Mekons suddenly decided to quit playing semi-competant dance-punk and went for an arty version of American country music. I'm sure that Misha might have recommended different songs from this album, but, y'know, what are you going to do when every single song is a keeper?

"Hello Cruel World", "Shanty", and "Big Zombie" are from Edge of the World, 1986. The country-punk continues. This is the first album with Sally Timms, but, sadly, I left off the song "Oblivion", which, by all rights, should have been here. Something to look for, if you choose to continue buying Mekons albums.

No songs from the live New York album, which is an interesting document of where the Mekons were at that time, but not as interesting as the studio material itself.

"The Prince of Darkness" and "Sympathy for the Mekons" are from Honky Tonkin', 1987. The former song is about the lead singer of the Sisters of Mercy and features Michelle Shocked singing back-up vocals. The second song is sheer goofiness.

"Ghosts of American Astronauts" and "(Sometimes I Feel Like) Fletcher Christian" are from So Good It Hurts, 1988. Shimmery, shimmery reggae-influenced pop. This album was a weird left turn in a career of weird left turns.

"Memphis, Egypt", "Club Mekon", and "Heaven and Back" are from Mekons Rock & Roll, 1989. Good god, y'all, if you've ever found smarter and more-rocking songs than these, I'll eat someone's hat. Every time I hear this album, I pick up something new. The lyrics manage to be commentary on the music industry, the commodification of music as an experience, the state of capitalism in the late 80s, and the indifference of the West to the plight of the Third World without sounding forced or strident. In fact, many of the metaphors are cleverly couched in throwaway phrases and misdirection. It works as a kick-ass rock album, a master's thesis, or the rock-opera version of The Baffler.

"The Curse", "Blue Arse", and "Wild and Blue" are from The Curse of the Mekons, 1991. Having languished in major-label hell for two years following Rock & Roll, the Mekons put out their most produced album yet and manage to lose none of the punk-rock kick. The lyrics are more direct and despairing than on Rock & Roll, but just as cutting. The cover of "Wild and Blue" may be Sally's most beautiful vocal, as well.

"I (heart) Apple" is from I (heart) Mekons, 1993, one of my least-favorite of their listenable albums. Some of the songs are first-rate material and really shine at live shows, but I find the production absolutely turgid. This track and "Millionaire" generally make it onto my Mekons comps, but I don't think I've ever put anything else onto a mix. This was the first Mekons albums I bought, and it took me years to buy another.

Nothing from Retreat from Memphis, 1994, another unlistenable affair. There's only one song on this album that I could stand to hear again.

I don't have Mekons United, 1995, but the song "Orpheus" is also on the first Hen's Teeth collection, and is the first song on both compilations and truly one of the finest songs the Mekons have ever recorded. This is the story of Orpheus told from the first-person perspective with the Mekons serving as the Dionysian women and the Fates. It's also a metaphor (with ongoing significance) for insanity and loss. Bonechilling, fist-pounding stuff. I understand that the rest of the album is mostly unlistenable, though, which is why I haven't made the effort to get it yet.

Nothing from Pussy, King of the Pirates, 1996, a disappointingly synth-oriented collaboration with Kathy Acker.

Nothing from ME, 1998, which has some stellar songs on it, but is basically an also-ran. The Mekons shouldn't get credit for C work, even if they mostly turned out D- work throughout the mid 90s.

"Powers & Horror" and "Neglect" are from Journey to the End of the Night, 2000. Now THIS is what we want from the Mekons. The album is a sadcore-reggae-folk-pop lament, sounding as angry as ever, but also sad and resigned. The Mekons are loose and having fun, though, and it makes all the difference in the world.

"Thee Olde Trip to Jerusalem" and "Bob Hope & Charity" are from OOOH! (Out of Our Heads), 2002. Journey to the End was a warm-up for this, the finest Mekons album since Rock & Roll, and their third finest overall. The music is near-impossible to categorize at this point: elements of punk, country, folk, reggae, pop, and choral singing run through every tune. Lyrically, this is THE answer album to September 11th, although the event is never mentioned, as the theme of losing one's head (from Orpheus onward) takes on the extra significance in the mass hysteria and loss prevalent in the US these days. The songs range from a discussion of E.P. Thompson's History of the English Working Class to nuclear winter to renouncing one's faith to regicide to the beautiful dirge "Hate Is The New Love". Not that the dire subject matter keeps the music from rocking harder than the now-middle-age Mekons have rocked in ages. It topped many a critic's Best Of 2002 list, and with good cause.


My photo
Cary, NC, United States
reachable at firstname lastname (all run together) at gmail dot com

About This Blog

From Here To Obscurity, founded ca. 2003, population 1. The management wishes to emphasize that no promises vis-a-vis your entertainment have been guaranteed and for all intents and purposes, intimations of enlightenment fall under the legal definition of entertainment. No refunds shall be given nor will requests be honored. Although some may ask, we have no intention of beginning again.

  © Blogger templates Brooklyn by 2008

Back to TOP