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The Mekons: New Inspiration In Old Sounds

Typical of The Mekons, "Space in Your Face" is both a perfect pop song and a boldly stated cautionary tale.
Courtesy of the artist
Typical of The Mekons, "Space in Your Face" is both a perfect pop song and a boldly stated cautionary tale.

Four decades into a career as unusual as any in rock 'n' roll, the Chicago-via-Leeds musical institution known as The Mekons continues to find new inspiration in old sounds. The left-leaning, pro-labor band began life alongside other first-wave British punk acts like The Clash and The Sex Pistols. Ultimately, though, the group outlasted its contemporaries by orders of magnitude, and along the way expanded on a unique, adventurous musical style which combines power pop, country, dub and synth-rock into something wholly original.

In spite of the uniform excellence of The Mekons' work, the band remains a distant rumor to the vast majority of the popular listening audience. Among many of its peers, however, it's come to represent an exemplar of integrity, never bothering to chase success and never losing sight of its members' wry, militantly utopian view of how a fractious society might one day be reimagined more equitably.

In the pulse-racing rocker "Space in Your Face," the group once again brings to bear its extraordinary capacity for wedding the personal to the political. Jon Langford's vocal narrative begins with a reference to the tragic labor-union bombing of The Los Angeles Times in 1910, and then elucidates his own anxious concerns about unions' place in contemporary America. Typical of The Mekons, "Space in Your Face" is both a perfect pop song and a boldly stated cautionary tale, all threaded together by the ecstatic refrain, "I was tempted to believe."

That's the defining characteristic of The Mekons: a belief in humanity that simply can't be shaken. It's a notion that, when the chips are really down, friends, lovers and even governments will find a righteous and true avenue of conduct. The band is tempted to believe, and it's been tempting listeners to do the same for more than three decades now.

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Elizabeth Nelson
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