Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lost and Found: Mekons

The first time I saw the word "punk," it was in a a five-and-dime store cosmetics department. Black nail polished, blue lipsticked, blowzy-haired models glared at me from the cardboard display with words like "Fierce!" and "Wild!" framing it. It was a commercial, safe-for-a-red-state version of a punk look, but I was all of five-years-old, but I knew this was something I need to file away in my memory for later use.

A decade later, I'd realized there was music attached to this subculture called punk (which by then had been thoroughly mined by the mainstream media), but I was still listening to mostly radio-friendly pop. When I did listen to music that fell outside of what your average late 80s/early 90s teen would discover via MTV, I still somewhat of a dilettante: never fully committed. I went through a musical conversion, so to speak, with the help of one really good independent radio station, and a, um, Columbia House membership.

Okay, probably not the coolest thing in the world, but I did get to expand my record collection for a while, and hipped myself to lots of music I wouldn't have otherwise. One of the records I bought during my phase of musical gluttony was The Mekons's Rock 'N Roll. It had all the raw energy I was hungry for. It was nihilistic or anarchistic, or something I'd been yearning for, but it was also melodic and danceable.

The Mekons always had a cheeky, irreverent sense of humor. They deconstructed old country songs like Hank Williams Jr.'s "Lost Highway, but 'twang came surprisingly naturally to them. Needless to say, I wasn't a bit shocked when singer Sally Timms released her own solo album of country classics and originals in the same vein. This is her cover of Johnny Cash's song "Cry Cry Cry" from Cowboy Sally's Twilight Laments for Lost Buckaroos:

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