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Mekons: Honky Tonkin'


The Mekons have been such a nebulous fixture on England and America's underground music scenes for the last 27 years that even beginning to describe them is a daunting task. Most famously, they are a country band combining a worship of American cowboy culture with specifically English accents, place names and (especially) politics. They've also been punks, noisy art rockers, drunken pub musicians and purveyors of pornographic electronica over a 20-LP catalogue that falls in and out of print almost seasonally. The latest hole to be plugged is a reissue of 1987's Honky Tonkin', as straight-laced a country album as the Mekons ever recorded--even more so than the 1985 fave Fear and Whiskey. With the exception of the elegiac traditional protest song "The Trimdon Grange Explosion," Honky Tonkin' sounds peppy and happy throughout. That is, until one reads the lyric sheet. With plenty of sarcasm and self-deprecation, singers John Langford and Sally Timms spin brilliantly nasty biographies of criminals, dictators and drunks before finally equating their own limited financial success to a toast from the devil in "Sympathy for the Mekons." All set to a swinging background of two-steps and dirges, this is one of the Mekons' finest hours, even if not their most popular.

--Nicholas Collias