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DESCENDING into the musty red glow of the 100 Club, you wouldn’t know you were walking the steps of music history.
Wedged between a Boots and Anne Summers, the legendary club — with its haze, heat and smell of dust and sweaty leather — is just a sliver in the wall, its neon red sign the only hint of its glorious dissent from the couture buzz of Oxford Street.
This is hallowed ground. The pictures on the walls are of BB King, Muddy Waters, The Clash, Bo Diddley, The Horrors and The Rolling Stones and for the jostling fans waiting for The Mekons to hit the stage, there couldn’t be a more fitting venue to host “the only band that matters.”
Kicking off with the strident, swaggering drumbeat of Lawrence of California, the band launch into a ferocious set that revisits a few electrifying favourites while introducing some of their latest material from new album Deserted.
That’s always a risky move. Many don’t like change and the adoring throng are clearly at their happiest when bellowing along to the discordant incantations of Thee Olde Trip to Jerusalem or thrashing away to the infectious Celtic thrum of Heaven and Back.
There’s more than a hint of nostalgia in the air and during a few new numbers the atmosphere is less rock’n’roll and more shuffle’n’drink. But The Mekons aren’t here to make us comfortable as they deliver a psychedelic evening of punk-reggae-folk-rock bookended by two stand-out new numbers, the last of which might be one of the best songs ever written.
How Many Stars Are Out Tonight? is a breathless account of heartbreak, given voice in the fumbling, impossible question “How many stars are out tonight? How many stars? How many stars?”
Deserted is the group’s first studio album in eight years and is inspired by the Californian desert where it was recorded in a studio in the environs of Joshua Tree.
“We went to the desert to have our brains scoured,” main man Jon Langford has said and their new album looks to be every bit as bold, raw and imaginative as the work that’s established them as one of the most revolutionary groups in punk-rock history.
The Mekons are on tour in Europe and the US until July 27, details: facebook.com/mekons. Deserted is released by Glitterbeat.
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