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3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 21, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

After touring on the back of their twisted non-retrospective "Punk Rock" in 2004, The Mekons picked up their instruments and lost themselves far beyond the beaten path in the wilds of the English countryside. Removed from the restraints of conventional studio technology, they navigate an undulating sonic landscape of lavish melodies, mantric chants, and shimmering acoustic experimentation. This is their first new material in five years since 2002's critically acclaimed "OOOH!" Look for them on tour this fall.

Thirty years is a long time to be involved with any profession, much less the notoriously soul-draining music business. But the ability of the Mekons to continue doing it without becoming jaded or redundant lies in their embrace of variety and their slippery punk/rock/country/whatever approach. For this, their 26th record, main Mekons Jon Langford and Tom Greenhalgh have concocted a mostly acoustic, folksy contemplation of modern life that nevertheless sounds ancient. The songs are like sea chanteys, messy and simple but haunted, as if the melodies had their origins in some long-dead Druid society. But the lyrics are something else, referencing everything from terrorism ("Burning in the Desert, Burning") and the computer age ("Ones and Zeroes"), to the perils of aging (the wonderful "Dickie Chalkie and Nobby"). Elsewhere, "White Stone Door" uses percussive instrumentation to liven up Sally Timms's dark, wistful vibrato, while "Cockermouth" features the uneasy line "you have to believe this is the end." It's pretty dour stuff on the whole, but delivered with playfully melodic wit and a certain poetic resignation usually found only in the hearts of forgotten souls and madmen (and maybe Tom Waits). We ignore such sad wisdom at our peril. --Matthew Cooke
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 21, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Quarter Stick
  • ASIN: B000S0FJSU
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #351,324 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Fans are unreliable reviewers; too intimate with a performer or performance, too willing to invest unwarranted time and energy in it, they often have trouble approaching a disk as a consumer object. I'm definitely a Mekons fan, so add salt accordingly.

I spend my life moving back and forth between one of the pounding hearts of global capital and one of its many soul-strewn killing grounds. I listen to the Mekons for help turning defeat into a way forward, for companionship in a struggle in which there is no reasonable hope of success. That's a very personal reason for following a band, but I don't think it's a private one and I suspect it's not unique. It definitely creates very high and very specific expectations, ones the band is under no obligation to meet but which are my reasons for trading my labor for their songs. This Mekons album has a bit to offer my needs, but less than usual.

The first half is very weak, salvaged only by the opening track. Four songs in I was already composing a Christgau-style pan in my head: "After thirty years of turning defeat into a lost highway, the Mekons' road dead-ends in a dark bracken. Here's hoping they find a hidden path back to the asphalt." For a few days I was ready to write this one off entirely. Perhaps they're not interested in struggling against the dark after all, I thought. Or maybe I'm just not far enough gone myself to need this kind of extreme unction. Worst album since ME, if not Honky Tonkin'.

It does get better, both as you go on in the track sequence and with repeated play. But not better enough. Too many songs are spoiled or nearly so by an affectation that feels like wallowing rather than flailing. "Dark Dark Dark" comes close to Robyn Hitchcock territory; "The Old Fox" gets there.
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Format: Audio CD
Following the two best things (OOOH! and Punk Rock), the Mekons have done since Curse, Natural is a disappointment. As always, the band deserves credit for taking chances and following muses, but this time the results are unspectacular. The music drags on too many songs, and there's an omminous amount of repetition. And why bother with another reggae-lite number (Cockermouth)? They already did that with Tina, back on Journey. Natural does offer one great Mekons song (Zeroes and Ones), which only serves to make the rest of the CD seem slight by comparison. Seveal other songs (Diamonds, Give Us Wine or Money) are decent, but overall Natural lacks the zest of the band's best work. Perhaps this sounds good if you're drunk and/or stoned and sleeping out in the English countryside, but at home in the afternoon on my stereo it just translated as blah. I hope they don't end on this one.
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Format: Audio CD
After five years, Mekons fans like myself were "naturally" anxious to hear the new record. Recorded in a bucolic Lake District setting, NATURAL does indeed have a folksy, rootsy ambience, though it is not entirely acoustic.

Framed by two powerful, somber songs, "Dark, Dark, Dark" and the lovely "Perfect Mirror," NATURAL follows naturally from the last two Mekons albums of new material, JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT (2000 -- see my review), and OUT OF OUR HEADS! (2002 -- see my review). It is only because NATURAL is not quite as strong as those records that I give it 4 stars. In its own right it is a great album, make no mistake, 12 songs from Jon, Sally, Tom & the others that add up to something greater than the sum of the parts -- don't miss it! Remember, life is short and the world is full of sonic crap.

After Tom's stunning "Perfect Mirror," my favorite songs are Sally's "The Hope and the Anchor" and Jon's "Cockermouth," which together represent an emotional high point after the depressing "Burning, in the Desert Burning," which is about religious fundamentalism. Sally sounds tender and optimistic, and despite jet fighters rehearsing for Armageddon, and the ominous ambiguity of "you don't have to believe in the end, you have to believe this is the end," Langford is carefree over a reggae beat, singing about rambling over the hills.

The Mekons are one of a handful of bands that are precious to people like me who persist in dreaming of a better world. As the Oysterband says on their latest, I'm "unimpressed, unreconciled" to the world of global capital, messianic religious war, war for oil, and ecological devastation.

When are the Mekons going to come to Atlanta?
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Format: Audio CD
Wandering about in the land of the red socks and walking sticks appears to have paid off. Purists will continue to be pissed off at the non appearance of "Where Were You" but never mind the quality feel the width.

Our happy band of situationalists have pulled each other off again. This is what we've been waiting for and like all good things it was worth the wait. Acoustically framed, electrically charged and most of all smelling of natural oils this is a collection of songs which for the first time show off the Meke's many talents. Not just Lu's incandescent production but also the sheer beauty of Ms Honeyperson's bow scraping.

Tommy puts in a fine performance as lead tenor and we are treated to a large sluice (sic) of Eric's lovely voice. Jon and Sally are the glue that holds it all together underpinned by Steve's percussion. Just take "Old Fox" and the appearance of Lu as Reynard himself and then compare that to some kike from the Chemical Brothers.

This is an intelligent album in as much as it makes you think - the arrangements mean that less is more and because of this you find new things in it at every listen.

The dark rural sinistry of the opening track the wistful ode of a lost childhood that is Dickie, Chalkie and Nobby and the gypsies arriving at every farm gate and cottage door suggest an earthy, mulchy ray of hope.

Cockermouth even acknowledges something it doesn't know about - Neil Gow's apprentice no less. Michael Marra will be truly proud.

This is the first Mekes album I've heard that is 100% consistently listenable - some will accuse them of having found their commercial gene. Nah, it's their Autry gene they've found.

Oh and how many other albums are dedicated to one of Manchester's finest? Further on down the road eh Jon?

Buy this now and then annoy your neighbours with it, it'll be more fun than that scratchy 45 of WWY.
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