The Mekons, who appeared in 1977 as a first-wave punk group from Leeds, made their best music in the middle of this decade as a stumbling, paranoid, jaded, and thoroughly brilliant amateur "roots" band--mixing American country with English folk and Urban Drunk, they teetered on the brink of total chaos with as much desperate fun and fury as Bob Dylan in his heyday. Now they've admitted that they know the intellectual explications of their alienation as well as they know the bottom of a whiskey bottle. So with their latest So Good It Hurts and last year's ridiculously underrated Honky Tonkin', we get to study highbrow bibliographies attached to the lyric sheet and listen to better produced songs, which are much less gripping and grungy but even more ambitious than before. Without a doubt, professionalism over amateurism is an uneven, unsteady trade-off. Onstage, I wouldn't lay bets either way, but I also wouldn't miss this excellent band for any raw talent I can think of. Today, 5 PM, Pravda Records, 3728 N. Clark; 549-3776. Tonight, 7:30 PM, Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Ingledew.