Archive for April 2, 2019

The Mekons’ Miracle in the Desert

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 2, 2019 by johnbuckley100

Thought exercise: try imagining the Rolling Stones, 42 years after their founding, releasing the strongest record of their career — a record that at once harkens to their 1964 debut but also their strongest work from their Golden Age. By this math, the record would have to come out in… 2004. Lord, forgive us as we write on the very day that Mick Jagger has announced he’s to have heart surgery, but is it in the realm of possibility that the Stones’ could, in 2004, have put out a record on a par with Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street?

We think you know the answer. Yet on Deserted, by our count the Mekons’ 20th album since their formation in 1977, this dearest of bands haven’t just touched upon their former glory. They have produced the greatest album of a long, cursed and hilarious career.

There is a technical term for this: a fucking miracle.

Thirty years ago, the Mekons released Rock and Roll, which always seemed likely to be their high-water mark, artistically. I (Heart) the Mekons (from ’91) may have had as many great songs, but the production was so harsh that to this day, we put gauze and vaseline on our earbuds before playing it. The run of albums that stretched from Me (’98) to Journey to the End of the Night (’00) to OOOH! (Out of Our Heads) (2002) had between them the greatest batch of Mekons’ songs and recorded performances, but boil all three recs down to what’s essential and you have a single Long Player.

From wild start to beautiful finish, though, Deserted has not a single weak moment. It is the apogee of the recorded output of this grizzled, sprawling spawn of the punk-era. It fill us with hope and gratitude. It is adding years to our life. It revives our faith in the art form.

Singers Jon Langford and Sally Timms don’t fully commit to their vocal chores the way the warble-voiced Tom Greenhalgh does, but make no mistake, this is the Mekons in the finest of fettles, fit as an old bass fiddle. Sequestered in Joshua Tree to produce an album, they chose to write songs with desert imagery, the usual nod to the lost “glory” of the British Empire, a recognizable dissonant squall, and some of the prettiest songs ev-er. From the start, it’s been hard to get the Meeks to take things seriously — I remember interviewing them on New Year’s Eve 1980 and could barely get a useable quote — even though, underneath it all, you don’t keep a venture like this going for 40+ years without a decided commitment. On Deserted, the Mekons mask their ambition inside the usual antics, but this greatest of punk-era bashers have produced an artful delight we plan on listening to for just as long as our batteries last.

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