Mekons: Deserted Album Review

Mekons "Deserted"

As someone who has stood in the middle of the Texas desert and gazed up at the night sky, I can appreciate the near-drunken wobbliness with which Tom Greenhalgh sings “How Many Stars.” As the Mekons play a gently swaying, not-quite-reggae rhythm, the vocalist/guitarist/founding member sounds like a man overwhelmed by the brilliance of a clear night sky dotted with billions of points of light, and all he can muster in response is a fumbling, not-quite-rhetorical question: “How many stars are out tonight? How many stars? How many stars?” When the rest of the band abandon their instruments to harmonize with Greenhalgh, it becomes a besotted sing-along, which is another way of saying it’s a Mekons song.

The inspiration, according to the song’s author, was not Texas, but a desert on the other side of the globe: the Australian outback. “I was standing out in the middle of nowhere, where there are no lights on,” Jon Langford recently told the Quietus. “Because it’s the other side of the planet, they don’t have the same constellations. Just the sheer number of stars was extraordinary.” Fittingly titled Deserted, the Mekons’ latest album (and their first studio full-length in eight long years) is inspired by these remote places where civilization cannot easily thrive but humanity and wonder can.

Lately, the band has been fascinated with overarching, often charmingly unwieldy concepts. Their last album, 2011’s Ancient & Modern, compared the world of 100 years ago and the world of today, while 2014’s Jura,featuring alt-country Rasputin Robbie Fulks, was not only recorded on that Scottish island but addresses issues of isolation and the weighty history that comes with the dour weather. Deserted was recorded in Joshua Tree National Park in California, and begins with the raucous, recklessly paced “Lawrence of California,” which barely holds together as the band reimagine T.E. Lawrence organizing an insurgent army somewhere in Death Valley. “Harar 1883” offer a bleary vision of poet Arthur Rimbaud hallucinating in Ethiopia. The glam-stomping “Weimar Vending Machine” even traces a handful of sand that ends up in a baggie sold to none other than Iggy Pop.

Rarely do the Mekons get quite as loose as they do on Deserted, alternating between arid, nocturnal atmosphere that seems to emanate from Susie Honeyman’s fiddle and moments of near hysteria, as though their sun-baked brains have gone haywire. These songs take their time to wander about, even getting lost in the vast expanse — sometimes a little too lost, as on the rambling “Mirage.” But even that song reveals the Mekons’ versatility and imagination. There is an intoxicating beauty to the harshness of the desert, an inspiration to be drawn from the hardiness of the life found there—and that pretty much describes this unkillable band.

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Source: Mekons: Deserted Album Review | Pitchfork

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Watch the Mekons’ Trippy Joshua Tree Excursion in ‘Lawrence of California’ Video

British punk stalwarts the Mekons shared a new song, ‘Lawrence of California,’ from their forthcoming album, ‘Deserted.’

British punk collective the Mekons embrace the unreal nature of Joshua Tree in the video for their new song, “Lawrence of California.” The track will appear on the group’s forthcoming album, Deserted, out March 29th via Bloodshot Records.

“Lawrence of California” is centered around a thumping drum groove and a swaggering cow-punk riff, both of which anchor crackling swells of horns, feedback and the Mekons’ brash gang vocals. The accompanying video is set in the desert around Joshua Tree – where the Mekons recorded Deserted – and matches the song’s uncanny aesthetic with a mix of psychedelic effects.

Deserted marks the Mekons’ first formal studio album since 2011’s Ancient and Modern 1911 – 2011. In the years since, the group has released a variety of projects including 2015’s Jura, a collaboration with Robbie Fulks, 2016’s Existentialism, which was recorded in real-time with the help of a full audience, and 2018’s It Is Twice Blessed, which was made by the group’s 1977 lineup and released under the moniker, Mekons 77.

In a statement, Mekons co-founder Jon Langford said of Deserted, “The idea was to go to a brand new studio our bassist the Baron had set up just outside the Joshua Tree national park in Yucca Valley CA and see what happened – we were in the middle of a hectic tour and had been attempting to write material first by email and then in the van… Most of what we wrote was abandoned after arriving at the Los Gatos compound. The desert is not unlike the ocean (just drier) and equally inspirational to old pirate punk rockers. The harshness of the environment, the bold and embattled plants and creatures that live there are metaphorical for us perhaps.”

The Mekons will embark on a world tour in support of Deserted, starting with a European run in April. The band’s North American leg kicks off July 14th at the Hideout in Chicago, Illinois and wraps July 25th at Tractor Tavern in Seattle, Washington.

Mekons North American Tour Dates

July 14 – Chicago, IL @ Hideout
July 15 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
July 17 – Pittsburgh, PA @ The Warhol Entrance Space
July 18 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
July 19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
July 22 – Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room
July 23 – Big Sur, CA @ Henry Miller Library
July 24 – San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
July 25 – Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern

Source: Watch the Mekons’ Trippy Joshua Tree Excursion in ‘Lawrence of California’ Video