The Mekons in Maximum Ink in March 2008
photo by Derrick Santini
From straightforward rock and loud punk to reggae and alt-country, UK band, The Mekons, have been kicking out the jams almost as long as this phrase has been around. Formed in Leeds by art students in 1977 (and named after a villain in the popular British comic, Dan Dare), they’ve existed as a loosely-knit group of musicians, almost a collective, for over thirty years. These years have included taking time off and reforming whenever the mood called. While they’ve been popular with critics and hipsters forever (including rock uber-critic, Lester Bangs, who wrote that they were “better than The Beatles” on the liner notes of their 1982 album, The Story of The Mekons), their sometimes awkwardly eclectic mix of music has brought them near to commercial success (as well as high profile releases on A&M Records in the 1990’s) but never brought them completely over into the pop world.
While their first single was a piss-take on the Clash’s “White Riot” called “Never Been In A Riot”, it was their 1985 release Fear and Whiskey that earned them the pioneer label as they explored the English folk and American country genres while keeping their punk (lack of) sensibilities. The left-wing politics that they were championing in the face of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s 80 conservatism which dominated the domestic affairs of the time resonated with the zeitgeist and is now in the pantheon of classic albums. It was that synthesis of the anger of punk rock fused with the call to social justice of folk and country, soaked in booze and unafraid to laugh at itself, that inspired influential acts like Uncle Tupelo who would later characterize the genre.
Their live shows are well known for their unpredictability, communal atmosphere, cracking musicianship, and ridiculous humor. After the release of their fifteenth studio record in 2007, Natural, they’ve just finished a tour of Europe and are returning to America for a short jaunt through the Midwest, playing Madison’s Barrymore Theater on March 27th.
• Website • Wiki
CD: Mekons Story Record Label: Touch & Go
• Purchase Mekons Story on Amazon