Friday , March 1 2024

The Mekons’ OOOH

In the midst of the political umbrage being aimed at Steve Earle’s upcoming Jerusalem disc, I’ve been getting my poli-outrage fix from another reliable source, the Mekons.
The band of Brit post-punkers has been producing smart, passionate prog statements in music for decades now. OOOH (Quarterstick Records) is the latest of the group’s sporadic “real releases” (as opposed to a collection of b-sides and demos – of which there are many in the Mekons’ catalog). It’s a darn good ‘un, too. Pissed-off and powerless, marginalized by events that have turned “hate into the new love,” all that Waco brother Jon Langford & peers can do is sing about their understandable despair.

Over the years the band has moved from its raucous punk roots into a rough-hewn country/folk mode that owes as much to Beggar’s Banquet Rolling Stones as it does Sandinista-era Clash. The newest Mekons may lack the fired-up sound of the group’s big label release, Rock ‘N’ Roll or Retreat from Memphis, but it catches a piece of this current moment better than just about anything else I’ve been listening to lately:
‘Cos there’s no peace
On this terrible shore
Everyday is a battle
How we still love the war.

Only the Mekons would craft a gospelly song that strives to incite the audience to “take His name in vain” – not to be outrageous in the mode of Johnny Rotten bragging he’s an anti-Christ, but just because it’s one of the few things left to say. “Our dissent,” Langford later moans over Steve Goulding’s diddley-ing drums, “throw another log on the fire.” The Mekons are unafraid to stare into the conflagration, acknowledging their fear and confusion.
As a band, the presentday group favors guit/fiddle statements (the latter occasionally reminiscent of John Cale), periodic spoken word experiments and more traditional old-fashioned country (album closer “Stonehead” opens with a weird acappella chant then turns into a country waltz). Many of the stand-out tracks are either group singalongs (“Thee Olde Trip to Jerusalem”) or solos by Langford or the unvarnishedly melodic Sally Timms.
“It’s not over ’til I say so,” Langford sings in the wonderfully titled “Bob Hope and Charity,” but this isolated moment of assertiveness is ambiguous at best. OOOH (the title is both an acronym for “Out of Our Heads” and an evocation of the harmonies that are all over this disc) is the best release to come from this scrappy unit in years. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the only audience that’ll care about this fact is the cadre of fans who’ve kept the group viable in cultland. Music this grown-up and dissipated isn’t just out of the band’s big giant head, it’s also out of step w./ today’s commercial & political clime.
(Reprinted from Pop Culture Gadabout)

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.

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