Once A Day

Nick West's reviews for Bucketfull Of Brains and Rock'N'Reel

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Location: London, United Kingdom

Co-editor and publisher of Bucketfull Of Brains since 1996.

Friday, December 05, 2008


MEKONS

NATURAL

(QUARTERSTICK)

The Mekons mark their thirtieth anniversary triumphantly with this Natural album. As individuals, since 2002’s Oooh! , they have produced work of quality and variety. Fortunately their collective best is kept for this inspiring and empathic collection.
The focus here is on the place of humankind in the natural process. It’s only in passing an environmental album; it’s more about the fact of mortality. If we must file it under something let it be dark, incantatory folk. It mainly features acoustic instruments; Susie Honeyman’s violin much in evidence along with harmonica, percussion, and occasional electric guitar. The sound is incredibly rich and textured, sliding in and out of our consciousness, at times dissolving or becoming disjointed.

The voices of Jon Langford, Tom Greenhalgh and Sally Timms have never worked together to better effect. In ‘The Old Fox’ they seamlessly alternate phrases; on ‘Dark Dark Dark’ Jon and Sally are the chorus behind Tom’s lead but they’re distinctly themselves.

‘Dark Dark Dark’ and ‘White Stone Door’ are both marked by echoes of the grave; “The dancers are all dead we know” sings Sally in the latter. ‘Dickie Chalkie And Nobby’ laments lost times and opportunities, and perhaps friends, and in its litany of dormant band members and helpers ensures they’re acknowledged while they’re still here.

But don’t believe it’s all downer stuff, there’s still room to dance. The vibrant reggae of ‘Cockermouth’ and the harvest home celebrations of ‘Give Me Wine Or Money’ are proof that The Mekons know there’s a time to everything.

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