I've held off on this post, even though half a year has passed since I listened to all of these. First I found the task daunting. Then I simply got out of the habit of blogging. But I'm back, and I want to talk about The Mekons. The Mekons are very special to me - one of my favorite bands, in fact - and I want to do them justice. Sadly, it's hard to find justice in this mean old world, so this is what you get.
When I wrote about The Fall (Dog Canyon link for a more complete Fall reading experience), I mentioned that I thought of The Fall and The Mekons as being quite similar. My pal Chris Estey disagreed, pointing out that they are exactly opposite in many respects. I think we're both right. The Fall is built around one person, one ego (Mark E. Smith, natch), and everyone else is completely expendable. The Mekons are a revolving collective with almost as many members over time as The Fall, but the near-utopian belief in the contributions of all members. There are a few guiding figures, to be sure: Tom Greenhalgh and Jon Langford are the longest-serving members and primary songwriters. Sally Timms has played the chanteuse since the mid-80s. Rico Bell plays the accordion and provides a fourth harmony voice during the Mekons' many choral-style sing-alongs. Might as well mention the rest of the more recent stable line-up: Steve Goulding (The Rumour) on the drums, Sarah Corina (Gang Of Four) on bass, Susie Honeyman on violin, and Lu Edmonds (The Damned) adding little to the music but enthusiasm with his oud. I first saw them on the Me tour in the late 90s. Not their best album, but man alive, their show was a revelation.
The English Dancing Master EP (1983). Only two of the four tracks, actually. These are more like the early Mekons than the genre shift that was about to occur.
Even now, watching this video, an audience recording with bad sound, this song hits me on such a powerful level that I write this with a lump in my throat. This is the first video I've put in this post, but I think I need to go back and add more examples now. Here's "Memphis, Egypt." Rock and Roll! Reminds me of a story: my old band Trouble Down South covered this regularly for a time. We ended with it one night at Ego's in Austin and the bartender came over afterwards and asked, "Did that song have only one chord?"
Mekons 25th Anniversary Chicago/NYC (September 12-14 and 19-21, 2002). These are bootlegs of the very shows I just mentioned. For their 25th anniversary, the Mekons played three nights of shows in Chicago and again in NYC. Each night focused on one specific major period of Mekons history. They also sprinkled in some acoustic day shows and readings, and generally had a freakin' blast. As an audience participant, I can say that it was fun for me, too. I saw Bob Christgau at the show at the Mercury Lounge, too, but I was a little too intimidated to talk with him.
Wow! I finished this post. Months in the making and yet still wholly inadequate: my gift to you.