The Mekons


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The Mekons are celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2007 as they release their 26th album, Natural, which to the uninitiated might sound as if the band were bowing to the ravages of time with its relaxed tempos, emphasis on acoustic instruments, and general reluctance to rock out in the traditional manner. However, this overlooks the fact that the Mekons have never had much truck with how things are "traditionally" done; the Mekons have rarely sounded as if they were following the same musical path on two consecutive albums, and while the aggressive stance of 2002's OOOH! (Out of Our Heads) and 2004's Punk Rock has taken a back seat to a more measured and subtle approach, Natural certainly fits in with the group's great tradition of intelligent ranting. Most of Natural suggests the Mekons sitting around the campfire, perhaps after some failed revolutionary action has knocked out the power, singing songs that at once reflect their cynicism and offer some faint hope for a world where either justice or cheap beer is in ready supply. "You don't have to believe in the end," from "Cockermouth," is the benchmark of the album's semi-optimism; "Dark Dark Dark," "Dickie Chalkie and Nobby," and "Give Me Wine or Money" all offer sketches of resistance in a world that isn't much interested in their campaign; and the closer, "Perfect Mirror," calmly contemplates the final defeat. In the midst of all this, the Mekons do find space for one noisy rocker, the digital-age rant "Zeroes and Ones," while an undertow of electric noise adds to the menace of "Dark Dark Dark," suggesting once again that the Mekons don't put much stock in even their own self-imposed rules. Natural is a quiet but disconcerting snapshot of a world of chaos, which is to say it depicts a world not so different than the one that saw the birth of the Mekons in 1977, and confirms their message has remained constant even when their musical approach has not.

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