The Mekons by Mark Keresman
The Mekons perform Friday, Oct. 5, at the Swedish American Hall at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $15; call 861-5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com for more info.
The Mekons are one of the few surviving bands from the "glory days" of punk rock — indeed, '07 marks their 30th anniversary. The reason for their longevity — aside from the members' engagement with an assortment of musical activities apart from Mothership Mekons — is the way they treat music as an evolving organism. Without being flaky, the Mekons have never trod the same stylistic path for very long, and Natural continues their (anti-) tradition.
Most of the new disc is acoustic and draws from an assortment of folk traditions. The harmonica echoes Woody Guthrie and Dylan; the fiddle's high, lonesome sound carries Anglo-Celtic conventions; and the restrained electric twang of "Diamonds" recalls Marty Robbins' and Neil Young's desert prairie tails. The most "electric" track here is "Zeroes and Ones," a sea shanty for our cellphone-oriented world ("Planets whirl, bodies entwined/ I can't hear you/ You're cutting out"). The Mekons' adorably ramshackle harmonies convey world-weariness with boozy undertones of perseverance, and Sally Timms' warble remains a heavenly cross between Dolly Parton and Nico. Natural may not be for novices (who are directed to Mekons Rock & Roll), but the smitten have gotta have it.