By: Andrea Drugay
In 1830, Ralph Waldo Emerson decreed art a "jealous mistress." Thirty years later, George Bernard Shaw declared that music was "the brandy of the damned." If music is art, then it makes sense that the sweet dessert drink of those going to hell is a lover who wants control through unconventional slaps in tradition's face.
Are you following me? Music = brandy of damned; art = jealous mistress; music = art; therefore, brandy of damned = jealous mistress. Right?
Don't mess with music
Now, let's say you're one of the damned, and you have a jealous mistress waiting to slap you and be sipped like brandy. You already know what too much brandy can do to your head -- "musical" brandy delivers just as much love and angst and doesn't give you the silent treatment when it's angry.
In fact, when truly angry music gives you the silent treatment, you'd be smart to get undercover quickly and regain your humility -- the music's smarter than you, don't doubt it (the music, too, is smart enough to refrain from flowery analogies and pretentious philosophizing ... ).
Change with time
Twenty years ago, the Mekons were a bunch of smart punks in England. By "smart" I mean sm"art." They were punks whose criminal minds were far beyond convenience store holdups and sticky-fingered Jagermeister swipes. The Mekons understood things.
One thing they understood was that the ability to change is essential to survival. How you change doesn't always matter as much as flexibility itself. So, as punk dissolved like Kool Aid into the New Wave waters of the 1980s, the Mekons dribbled into newer musical territories, albeit diluted ones.
The Mekons' musical grounds since their late 1970s heyday have been eclectic, sometimes watered-down, kind of artsy and experimental, kind of boring -- and simultaneously praised, ignored and laughed at.
Now, they've collaborated with novelist Kathy Acker to produce a spoken-word, musical seafaring adventure -- or something like that. The Mekons came up with some plucky, plank-banging musical settings for Acker's narrated story of sarcastic pirate girls. She sings sometimes, too (ahoy, Adam Ant).
The music and especially the story leave much to be desired. Acker has a mouth that's a cross between Maggie Estep and Lydia Lunch. It would be one thing if she simply swore a blue streak, like any good pirate girl should, but alas, no swashbuckler is she. Instead, she mutters boring soft porn that's too strained to be sexy.
The album as a whole is just kind of okay. However, it was a pretty
risky move for the Mekons, artistically, within the neo-punk populous.
They don't care if we think they're lame. As usual, they will
drink their brandy in one quick sip and wait for the inevitable