The Mekons - Deserted - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Mekons - Deserted

by Kevin Orton Rating:7 Release Date:2019-03-29
The Mekons - Deserted
The Mekons - Deserted

The Mekons are back and opening track ‘Lawrence of California’ gallops in like a gang of lusty marauders. “I will be the king,” they declare amid a fusillade of feedback-bleeding guitars. It’s a formidable start.

‘Harar 1883’ finds the band in defiant anti-war form. The tale of a deserter in the desert. Using obscure historical reference to serve as a metaphor for how history can’t help but repeat. Without much further ado,  we ride ‘Into The Sun’. It’s the kind of song the Clash used to cut, nicely filling the void of their demise. Armed with such sentiments as, “Put on the night vision goggles, the galaxy explodes” and “the old snake charmer is on the line”. All of which should give you some indication that the Mekons have returned to rock, not roll with the punches of Trumpian world disorder. This isn’t the sound of old pugilists recalling past glories but taking off the kid gloves and aiming for the kidneys.

‘How Many Stars’ finds the band in Broadside balladeer mode. A perfect mix of the defiantly sardonic and the yearningly heartfelt. With its timeless, sea-shanty chorus, its what the Mekons have long excelled at.  

‘In The Desert’ is a haunting, atmospheric number. The drums are placed up front in the mix, offset by a ghostly lacing of Sally Timms vocals. Heavy on atmosphere but a bit of an elusive listen. The kind of song that really doesn’t land so much as float by. ‘Mirage’ follows and is anything but a dreamy number. Ornery guitars grind away like buzz saws amid cries of “Where you hiding?”. It’s a noisy number that again is heavy on atmosphere but lacks cohesion and really goes nowhere.

‘Weimar Vending Machine’ is a remarkably sinister number with some bee buzzing guitars almost lending an air of Arabic pastiche. Then things suddenly veer into demented Pop territory. It’s an awkward, disorienting listen but not without its share of earworms. After repeated listens, I’m still undecided as to whether its ambitions pay off or not. Which I suppose is a good thing.

With its country fiddle and jaunty cowpoke reggae beat, ‘Andromeda’ is classic Mekons harkening back to their Honky Tonkin’ and Fear & Whiskey Days. Leading us to the final bow of ‘After The Rain’. A cinematic, elegiac farewell that finds the Mekons on top of their game.

While Deserted starts off and ends strong, it runs into some rather choppy and uncompromising waters during the middle. Of course, challenging the listener is never a bad thing, but they aren’t the numbers that will keep you coming back so much as grow on you in time. Nevertheless, this is a vital return to form.

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