Powell's on Hawthorne
Tues Aug 27, 7:30 pm
There are probably only about two bands in the world that could compile a book of their lyrics for the last 25 years, and not be completely mortified at the results. Being a brilliant musician does not mean that one is a good writer, and sometimes the most touching songs read like first grade poetry once stripped of their music. Luckily, The Mekons--the group that's actually decided to release said book--are one of the rare bands that have consistently written poetic, beautiful lyrics that can stand on their own.
"To be honest, I was very proud of it," explained Jon Langford, the guitar player of the Leeds-born group. "Looking through [the book], there's not that many embarrassing moments. The actual work is pretty good," he explained. Hello Cruel World presents the best of the work the Mekons have done over the last 25 years together. "We didn't want it to be a 'completed' set of lyrics," Jon explained. "We just chose about 80 percent of all our lyrics."
In fact, the tone and content of The Mekon's lyrics has been even more consistent over their career than the sound of their music, which took a drastic turn in the mid '90s, when the group decided to transition their lo-fi punk sound to a kind of old school, indie country. "There's a line in the song called 'The curse,'" said Jon: "'Call it intuition, call it luck, but we're writing all that we distrust.' I think that's the thread that goes right through all our music."
"Even though the band live is real fun on a Friday night, there's this other level to the music," said Jon. "I think we always took on more serious subject matter than most pop music. We were the opposite of brutally escapist music. There's not really a message behind it, but there's lots of finger-pointing one liners. The main thing is that it's relentlessly realistic."
Still, Jon admits that the sound of the music does affect the message--he sees it as a reflection of the different social climate we're in. "The stuff we did in '85, that relates to a very specific time for me in England," said Jon. Though The Mekons weren't as overtly politcal as the Sex Pistols or Gang of Four, who they were making music alongside of, their music has always consisted of vague descriptions of the bleak conditions of the world.
Perhaps it's this added depth that has kept the band fresh for so long, or maybe it's their relentless efforts to reinvent themselves. "We've talked about doing an album, kind of primitively recorded, possibly even unaccompanied stuff," said Jon, of their future projects. "The subject matter is the collapse of Einstein's physics. We're quite interested in science; artists use science as a glib crutch. I think that's quite fascinating."