Mekons Journey to the End of the Night

There's no rest for the wicked, or at least that self-styled band of rogues, the Mekons, would like to think so as an explanation for the hectic pace of their releases of late. At the same time, they're a little less wicked with Journey to the End of the Night, and it suits me fine that they've settled into acting their age, if only temporarily, since their shenanigans had been getting tiresome for some time. Even if that means that instead of sounding like drunken louts knocking over garbage cans they sometimes come off as maudlin drunks moping in their cups, it's still an improvement. Especially when they get around to writing a proper song and let Sally Timms sing it - she's probably the only one of the crew who can give a country ballad its due. Their dabbling in pop atmospherics is a little anomalous - they've never been known for their subtlety, so trying to go a teensy bit spacey with the keyboards is a little off-putting - but their stabs at straight-up pop songs generally work. The caveat would be the album's frequently manifested reggae influences, which are also anomalous, but ham-fisted in their grimy paws. Still, Journey to the End of the World comes closer to recapturing the Mekons' fighting form of ten or 15 years ago than they have been for some time. (Quarterstick)