Published Aug 31, 2016The Mekons have been around for nearly 40 years, and for most of that time, they've been evolving into an alt-country band. As a group, and in their solo and side projects, they've seemed to grow twangier every year, so it's easy to forget that they started out as a noisy agit-punk collective.
Existentialism is a sharp reminder of their roots away from roots music. This is no honky-tonk; this is fierce political cabaret — with, you know, fiddle and accordion and Hank Williams quotes. That's how they roll.
The Mekons explicitly reference historical events, recent and otherwise, on a number of tracks here. In "1848 Now!" They use the French rebellions of that year as a shout-out to once-and-future doomed uprisings, while "Beer and Fear" is a heart-cracking lament for a post-Brexit England. When the stories get more personal, as in "Travelling Alone" and "Simone on the Beach," they're individual narratives for troubling times.
Existentialism is theatrical, a fractured narrative of travelling through an ever-changing, often horrifying world. Taken as a whole, it's a rallying cry to be loud, radically vulnerable and "Naked as a new born babe," as they sing in "Skin Trade." After all, the album's not called "Nihilism." (Bloodshot)