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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Sarcastic Wit and Earnest Warmth From the Mekons

August 12, 1994|STEVE HOCHMAN

If perseverance equaled popularity, the Mekons would have been playing at a packed arena on Wednesday instead of the not-quite-filled Troubadour.

Even after 17 years as one of the most consistently praiseworthy but underappreciated punk offshoots, the English band is still just hanging on--they barely even made it to the gig because their van broke down. That's the kind of thing you'd expect a band of young scruffs to put up with, not graying vets. But you would have been hard-pressed to find a better set from even the most eager rookies.

Not that wide-eyed innocence has ever been a Mekons trait. Born of the same climate and ideology as the Clash, Gang of Four and the Fall, the Mekons--currently a rock-solid quintet--have retained the sparks of those heady, early years while gaining musical maturity and lyrical wisdom.

Their songs' observations on sex, politics and sexual politics are a tricky balance of dry, sarcastic wit and earnest, non-ironic warmth, delivered in personable fashion Wednesday by the band's three lead singers, Sally Timms and guitarists Tom Greenhalgh and Jon Langford, and powered by fiery, melodic rock encapsulating a wide array of influences.

The Mekons walk a dangerous line between true love and bitter contempt for the world of rock, but ultimately they stated loudly and clearly that at the end of the day they fall on the side of the former. Why else would they still be doing this?

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