Tuesday, January 27, 2004

#90) Mekons - Mekons Rock'n'Roll (released in 1989, I purchased it on used cassette at Arboria sometime near the end of high school)

The Mekons don’t actually call rock music “capitalism’s favorite boy-child” on “Memphis, Egypt,” but it sure sounds like it, and having that slander in the midst of one of their hardest rockers ever sums up the paradox that fuels the Mekons’ finest, most accessible set of songs to date. Is rock the sound of freedom and an easily achieved form of expression or bread and circuses for the rabble to chew on while their lives become more futile and worthless with every passing day? Well, duh, both. Can anthemic country-rock be merged with lyrics like “When I was seventeen, sex no loner held a mystery. I saw it as a commodity, to be bought and sold like rock’n’roll” and still have a chance of mainstream acceptance? Possibly, though it would require enough ambigious shtick that the people who want to miss your message would be able to - something that the Mekons realize would greatly diminish their overall value. Do we need another Bruce Springsteen?

That weathered yet enduring quality, which (to quote another lyric) is like “the sound of failure and cold water running,” has made the evolving troupe consistently rewarding for over 20 years. However, Rock’n’Roll is the one album where it sounds like they’re going to try to take their message to arenas, a move that doesn’t feel like commercial capitulation as much as an inspired desire to reach a larger audience - to find out how many people have ever felt like a Mekon. Label woes sent them almost immediately back into the underground, but the music remains charged with testimonial spirit. I do wish they’d ripped into Bono a bit more on “Blow Your Tuneless Trumpet,” though.

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