A GUEST POSTING FROM GEORGE FORSYTH
There’s a healthy dose of ICAs in the pipeline, courtesy of guest contributors. I’m really pleased that George has come on board – he was responsible for what was a very entertaining, informative and educational blog called Jim McLean’s Rabbit. He’s a Scotsman who not too long ago upped sticks for a new life in Portugal as a peanut farmer. Those of you who frequent Charity Chic’s place will know that George is very fond of leaving the occasional friendly and dry-witted comment there. This is the first of two back-to-back ICAs from him. Neither of his chosen acts are all that familiar to me, but that’s what makes this series such a joy.
There are twenty-one albums by The Mekons up here in the music room. Which is almost their entire output, bar one compilation album from a few years back (Heaven & Hell: The Very Best of the Mekons ) and the album Pussy, King of the Pirates they made with Kathy Acker in 1996, which I think I bought second hand from Polar Bear records in Birmingham many years ago, but I must have traded it in again.
So here’s ten tracks, and only one from their first incarnation, when they were punk (‘The Quality of Mercy is Not Strnen’), then post-punk (‘The Mekons aka Devils Rats and Piggies a Special Message from Godzilla’ and ‘The Mekons Story’), and the track here is the first from a double 7 inch EP, not from any of those three albums.
There was a radical change in direction in 1984, as Charity Chic mentioned a couple of weeks back, when The Mekons started making records with more than a hint of country, then ca. 1989 the music became more “indie/alternative” for a few years and latterly more folk-tinged. All of which may have you running for the hills, but that would be a catastrophic mistake, because The Mekons are a great band (apart from those early years).
This is not some sort of My Most Favourite Mekons tracks, it’s not meant to be representative of their output, it’s simply ten tracks that I particularly like. If I was to do this ICA next week I’d come up with ten different tracks. Because The Mekons are a great band (apart from those early years). I may have mentioned that already.
(Simply click on the Track Number to get the mp3s)
Track 1. Memphis Egypt
This is track 1 from the 1989 album The Mekons Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Not a bad track on the album. Has been, on occasion, One Of The Ten Best Albums Of All Time. The first album of their “indie/alternative” era.
Track 2. Alone and Forsaken
From the “country-punk” album Edge Of The World.
You really need to listen to the lyric on this one.
Track 3. Funeral
From the 1991 album The Curse Of The Mekons
Track 4. Dear Sausage
From 1993 album I ♥ Mekons
Track 5. Tourettes
From the 1998 album Me.
There are some rather rude words in this so in the name-of-the-sweet-lord do not play this when your granny’s in the room. But it’s a song that could very well make you laugh. Or not, if you’re a bit prudish.
Track 6. Teeth
From the 1980 7-inch EP.
When deciding what tracks to include I played The Mekons Story in its entirety and the 1980 album Devils Rats… and I thought, well, they were quite interesting but they won’t be getting played again anytime soon. Just like the Quality if Mercy album (the one with a photo of the Gang of Four on it, by mistake), which was the very first Mekons album I heard, in 1984, leant to me by a friend. And I thought “what’s this shit!”. It remains an album I’m not overly keen on. But “Teeth” is well worth a listen.
Track 7. Spinning Round in Flames
From the 1994 album Retreat From Memphis.
I have this on vinyl, there are two discs, one plays at 33 and1/3 and the other at 45. So not having listened to the 45rpm disc too often I put it on. Which involves, on my turntable, changing unscrewing one motor/belt-drive thingy and replacing it with the one for 45s, and re-attaching the belt. Which is a bit of a pain in the bum, it takes me longer to do this than the length of your average 1970s pop song.
So I played this portion of Retreat From Memphis, and it wasn’t that good. After all that faffing around. Just as well I’ve got nothing better to with my time. So I thought I’ll put on The Widowmaker EP (Butthole Surfers). Christ, that’s not too good either! To rectify my increasingly bad mood I put on Fox On The Run, which to this day remains one of the five finest “pop” songs ever made.
Anyway, track 7 here, Spinning Round in Flames is on side 2 of the 33 and 1/3 disc. Retreat From Memphis is not one of The Mekons albums you must own, but it certainly has some good songs. On the 33 and 1/3 disc. You know, they could have made the second disc a one-sided 33 amd 1/3. It would have made life a lot easier.
Track 8. Last Dance
The penultimate track from Fear And Whiskey, the first album The Mekons made after their hiatus, and I think one of the first alt-country albums. Some people refer to it as country punk. And an album you really should possess.
Track 9. Myth
From the Journey To The End Of The Night album.
Track 10. Revenge
From the live album New York, originally a cassette-only release, but now you can get it easily enough on cd.
So there you are. No “Ghost Of American Astronaut”, no “Empire Of The Senseless”, no “Where were you”.
One time I saw The Mekons live, in the Little Civic in Wolverhampton, in the late 1990s, there were 37 people in the audience. I thought the band (all 7 or 8 of them, from memory) might be a little disheartened, some of them live in the USA I think, so they all get together, put on some shows in the UK, and THIRTY-SEVEN people turn out. It’s enough to give you a strapadichtomy. Because, and I might have hinted at this already, The Mekons are a great band. Apart from those early years.
And here’s one of the best pop songs ever made: