The Mekons have been around long enough to have a sense of history that matches their perspective as first-generation punks—Jon Langford and Tom Greenhalgh co-founded the band during punk’s 1977 Summer of Hate and are still sparking the Mekons’ mix of arty lyrics, provocative politics and punky attitude today. But even for a band with thirty-four years in the rearview mirror, the suffix of the title Ancient & Modern: 1911-2011—the Mekon’s latest album—sounds a bit ambitious in its scope. Since the ‘80s, the band has increasingly filtered its own punk-poet roots through traditional, rootsy influences like folk and country, and that sensibility serves them well as they cast their artistic eye to an era well before their own individual lifetimes.
According to drummer Steve Goulding, who has been manning the Mekons’ throne for over a quarter-century now, Ancient & Modern is concerned with “that last fading of one kind of way of life, and that descent into war…the end of the ninteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, the whole Edwardian era. It’s supposed to convey that kind of atmosphere. Pretty much everything in all the songs is concerned with that era. It’s an era of prosperity and ease of living that was fading away and descending into chaos. The trade unions are rising and there’s war all over the world, all the old certainties are slipping away.” He adds laughingly of the band members, who are now in their 50s, “In our case, all the old chords are slipping away too.”
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