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THE MEKONS – ‘Existentialism’ Review

THE MEKONS – Existentialism

the-mekonsFull disclosure, I love The Mekons. I always have. Existentialism opens with a track that would be fully at home and welcomed on a PiL album with its driving bass line and echo infused vocals. Even the vocals on Flowers of Evil, Pt. 2 are reminiscent of John Lydon. As the track builds and builds adding in handclaps, violin, what sounds like a trumpet and keyboard, it has you banging your head and tapping your feet.

Skintrade returns to the Mekons tried and true method of mashing folk, country and rock with a group wide vocal effort. It’s swashbuckling in it’s approach and feels like it could disintegrate at any moment before clinging onto chaotic perfection.

The album shows a band full of ideas and songwriting brilliance. The third song O Money brings in some woodwind instruments (I think, you never actually know with Mekons as they are multi instrumental) and some choral backing vocals – again, there is a hint of a sea shanty, a folk song all held together by the drums and bass. I had the great experience of seeing The Mekons earlier this year in a sold out New York gig where they delivered a set full of confidence and humor. One of the highlights of that gig was the interplay between the male and female lead vocals with the assortment of instruments and Bucket is the first song on the new album to bring the female vocals to the fore in a Eastern European Gypsy folk song – I defy you not sway along to this one.

Fear and Beer intros with some classical piano before the drums and bass kick in followed by some strange sounds from what I’m guessing is one of Lu Edmond’s instruments from his travels. The group then brings a full on vocal (with at least 5 voices) treatment to the ballad – an almost old English folk song approach that the band are so good at. Not content with the strange song titles so far Onion is next up and is more in your face musically with some strong chords underpinning the beautiful vocals and lyrics.

The Mekons have never been content to be pigeonholed and the must watch documentary on the band details a very creative bunch willing to explore all types of music but always challenging the listener to expand their horizons as well. Traveling Alone takes you to the Caribbean with a reggae backing and then Nude Hamlet comes at you with a Led Zeppelin bluesy rhythm. The band continue to show their adaptability with 1848 Now! a track that takes the reggae and blues of the previous two efforts and mashes them into something totally new with the lead guitar lick prominent.

Simone on the Beach is pop perfection as Sally Timms comes to the fore with her velvet vocals backed by an upbeat style – it’s three minutes of pure joy. Second to last on the 12 track album is The Cell. It’s one of my favorites as it’s classic Mekons – a drunken singalong with rhyming couplets and violin backed folk.  I am already totally awed and satisfied before the last song Remember hits you with a spoken intro distorted to sound like a Dalek and then the bass and drums launch you into a dance track with some complex vocal interplay. It’s almost 5 minutes giving the band ample time to experiment with different vocalists and sounds. Like the rest of the album, the bass and drums hold it together providing a foundation for the band to build their sounds upon.

If punk rock is about attitude, experimentation, art, continually evolving and challenging the status quo then The Mekons are as punk as it gets. Seek out this album, seek out the documentary and seek them out live – you will not be disappointed ….get it here https://www.bloodshotrecords.com/artist/mekons

 

 

 

4 Comments
  1. No mention of the er, interesting book which accompanies the music and the video………

  2. hopefully we’ll be tourin in UK next summer
    maybe see you at Rebellion

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