Monday, July 26, 2010

Sin (1986)

Thanks to Alexander for the opportunity to contribute here! In gratitude, our first posting is a tribute to this blog's own inaugural entry, highlighting the beautiful Sun Records label via Johnny Cash.

Sin Records of Brixton, London, home only to the Mekons and only for a few years, was born in 1985 with these words: "I was out late the other night/Fear and whiskey kept me going/I swore somebody held me tight, but now there's just no way of knowing." Supposedly, Sam Phillips chose the name Sun Records as a symbol for a new beginning, new opportunity--you know, a new day.* Fitting, then, that the half-joke of Sin Records marked the Mekons' rebirth as a hybrid "country" act, replete with ten-gallon hats and cowboy boots.

In terms of their career arc, the Mekons don't get a good rap or a bad rap, but mostly just a weird rap. It seems hard at first to connect the dots from the Leeds post-punk scene (Gang of Four, Delta 5, Mekons) to Bloodshot records and quiet nights at Chicago's Hideout, but there's an underlying continuity threaded into the band's post-hiatus transition to "country" music.

In contrast to the Gang of Four, the Mekons were always already folk music, in a way. The narrative was remarkably consistent: some poor, disillusioned person trying to keep his or her shit together in the midst of some completely fucked and confusing situation. War, labor strikes, unfriendly strangers, unreliable friends and lovers--these environmental hazards are just as common in the Mekons discography as in the Anthology of American Folk Music. And somehow, there's nothing nostalgic or retro-fit about the Mekons, at all.

"The Edge of the World," Sin's second LP, is the first Mekons LP to feature Sally Timms and Jon Langford together, then in Leeds and now in Chicago, and always, surprisingly, the very same Mekons.

*Supposedly, meaning based on several unsourced websites, of course. It's worth pointing out that one of the four sites we referenced suggested the name was chosen due to the sun's "universal power." Sam Phillips was a weird enough dude where that certainly seems just as plausible. Who knows? Anyways...

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