After enduring literally dozens of personnel changes since their punk-era (1977) beginnings in Leeds, England, the Mekons have only recently matured into a band of real importance. Having digested lots of American Cajun and country and British folk music, they infuse that roots stuff with their own dark, screaming energy to paint a surreal picture of the decaying prewar civilization we call home--a place where hope and trust are dying. This bleak vision doesn't fall into punk-rock cliche because it's so richly ambiguous: horrifying images of burning flesh, hanging bodies, and the president immersed "in a deadly bath of his own gastric juices" are countered by poignantly understated meditations on the value of friendship, all while the accordions and guitars chime to the bittersweet rhythms of a waltz. The Mekons--who have a reputation for ferocious live sets--really seem to comprehend the true horror of our times, but also understand the importance of finding things of value amidst the rubble: an affirmation they paint big and unflinchingly bold on a vast canvas. Sunday, Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison; 327-1662.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/H. Metcalfe.