One thing is very obvious to me right away about the Mekons as I take in what I can of this new album: everything they’ve wanted to accomplish as a collective (which formed in the 1970s, according to Wikipedia), they already have. I mean, just look at their insane discography: it spans five decades, obviously, wielding vainglorious titles like “The Mekons aka Devils Rats and Piggies aka Devils Rats and Piggies a Special Message from Godzilla” and “So Good it Hurts,” the type of thing that must give a band an enormous sense of wellbeing, seeing as all this information is available on the venerable Wikipedia, and everything. The band is even “British-American,” like the Pretenders, Fleetwood Mac, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and what would seem to be exclusively famous bands.
And Mekons are certainly famous. We’ve been hearing about this album since about hurricane season, it seems like.
Appropriately enough, for track one we go to “California,” a nice talking point for all of the upwardly mobile people out there. Mekons employ their dual-vocal strategy here, as usual, of one male and one female. Actually, this very thing encompasses part of the problem with this band to me, and generally apropos of how there are like a gajillion band members, the end result seems to invariably get diluted, like a phenomenon of “too many cooks in the kitchen,” or a lot of purported “muses” hedging their bets for the larger good. What we get then in this new album is some industry insiders treading water, more or less. The band seem interested in channeling The Decemberists as an influence, dripping out this melodramatic folk-rock which is nowhere near instrumentally authentic enough to pass as some real sh** like Wilco or Steve Gunn. Getting them to take on a confrontational or humorous theme, it would seem, would be like trying to walk a lizard across Antarctica. The worst part about this album, though, is the set of tempos and “grooves,” which is so selfsame and mundane it is almost comical after all. The phrasing in “Into the Sun / the galaxy explodes,” for one (wow, you’d think with a title like that they could actually make the song interesting), is basically just abominably conventional, relying on multiples of four and this simplistic, awful guitar riff that was supposed to be more the pulp of brats like Blink-182 and Good Charlotte, mere plebians compared to the indie elite, or so we were told. Anyway, as it stands, I officially vote this as the “hipster” album of the year, that is, the detritus of those so invested in indie-star name-dropping that they’ve lost all concept of music’s real disposition.