Picks and Pans Review: So Good It Hurts

updated 12/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Mekons

With the vast number of records that hits the market every week, sometimes a very good one just spins by unnoticed. Such is the case with this album, which got little attention and less airplay when it was released last May. But it's not too late to enjoy this wonderful record and even see the Mekons in the flesh as they tour the U.S. from mid-November through December. With an in-flux membership that currently includes eight men and two women, this British band has evolved through a variety of musical styles. They started out as punky, untrained noisemakers, became influenced by country music and now mix styles with assurance and ingenuity on their second U.S. album. Sweet soothing vocals by Sally Timms, who sometimes sounds like the young Judy Collins, are mixed with vocals by Tom Greenhalgh, who croons to either a calypso or Celtic beat in a tough, nasal manner that resembles onetime Clash leader Joe Strummer. The Mekons show their greatest skills when they test the limits of pop music lyrics. Often they pick a small topic and examine it as a metaphor for larger issues. Dora explores the deep dark thoughts of one of Freud's patients, set to a swirling, dreamy tune. (Sometimes I Feel Like) Fletcher Christian gets into the mind of the mutineers of the Bounty, with a slow reggae beat. As is their habit, the Mekons line the album sleeve with quotes from various highbrow sources—including Jean-Paul Sartre's The Age of Reason and E.R Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class—which shed light on the subjects of their songs. Don't write them off as just another pretentious art band, though. Even if you skip all the fine print, you'll find the Mekons to be as rowdy and down-to-earth as a working person's pub on payday. If they're not yet quite a band for all seasons, they're certainly working on it. (Twin Tone)

From Our Partners