Preview/ Mekons: Deserted

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By Mark Parker, Second year History

Mark Parker previews Mekon's upcoming release Deserted, out on 29th March.

‘In many ways, it is unrealistic for a band to be together for more than five years because everyone is pulling in different directions,’ said Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention. And yet, the Mekons (albeit with some line-up alterations) have released a steady stream of material since their formation in 1977. Hard to pin down succinctly, the Mekons’ sound mixes punk with alt-rock, folk and country, merging seventies punk roots with whatever cultural influence they pick up along the way. As Greg Kot of Sound Opinions puts it, ‘they are a punk band, but they don’t play punk rock, exactly.’

If critics were struggling to pin down the Mekons’ sound before, Deserted, their first album release as a full line-up since 2011, makes the task even harder. Amplifier feedback introduces the album as Lawrence of California opens, hinting perhaps to a reversion to typical punk rock roots. And yet, whilst much of the album could be described as punk rock, a sizeable portion does not sit easily within this category. How Many Stars, Andromeda, and After the Rain, one third of the nine-track album ally more closely with folk-rock. Weimar Wending Machine sticks out furthest. Sounding like a collaboration between Mekons, a 60’s girl band, and cabaret, the song details a fictional world in which Iggy Pop purchases a bag of sand from a vending machine. Unsurprisingly, the whole album has a different sound to its predecessor, Existentialism. This time recorded in a studio outside Joshua Tree, California, as opposed to in front of a live audience, the album possesses most fundamentally a more notable production presence. Though, this is not to say that the Mekons have forgone their trademark jaggedness in place clean-cut perfectionism. Deserted, though more frequently interspersed with slower tempo, folk-based tracks than Existentialism, maintains the typical Mekons sound, this being the sound, perhaps, that encourages critics to refer to the band as punk rockers. Even in those more folk-influenced tracks, the vocals, shared by Jon Langford, Tom Greenhalgh, and Sally Timms possess a notable punk influence.

Jon Langford recently told Rolling Stone that the album’s inspiration came from their surroundings. Recorded in the middle of a tour, the band found similarities between the desert and the sea, both ‘equally inspirational to old pirate punk rockers.’ Mekons have released a pirate-themed album before, in the shape of Pussy, King of the Pirates, but Deserted is different. The theme of the desert serves a starting point for the album but does not constrict inspiration. In Mirage, the Mekons level criticisms against Blair and Bush and the war in Iraq, injecting their album with its dose of politics.

For fans of Mekons and punk-rock alike, Deserted, out on the 29th March on the Glitterbeat label is a must listen. Presenting us with a sound that is familiar, but not ordinary, recognisable, but not tiresome, the Mekons serve up what is perhaps one of the best albums of the year so far.

The Mekons will play Le Pub, Newport on the 2nd April. Though tickets are sold-out, the venue frequently reminds fans that returned tickets may become available on the night.

Featured Image: The Mekons / Gliterbeat Records


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