Essential New Music: Mekons’ “Deserted”

People get up to all sorts of dire shit in the desert. Desert Storm, the current war in Yemen, the recent war against music in Mali, the Alamo, Arthur Rimbaud’s post-art career as businessman in Ethiopia, every spaghetti-Western ever … the list does not end. The Mekons could be on it. At the end of their last U.S. tour, they decamped to Joshua Tree, Calif., to make a record, knowing full well what happens in such arid climes; hell they even write some songs about it. But this crew of English and Welsh men and women, who live scattered around the world when they aren’t doing Mekons stuff, are oppositional to the end, so they made a swell album there instead.

Coming off the road probably has something to do with it, for the Mekons haven’t made a record that sounds this savage in a long, long time. But they aren’t just bashing it out on Deserted; the cursing guitars and wailing violins ride atop some tunes so memorable that they’ll take up residence in your head without you even inviting them in. Add to that their usual acute observations about trying to be honorable and aware while living under the setting sun of capitalism, and you’ve got something that sounds more like a triumphant reminder of how the Mekons earned our allegiance in the first place.

—Bill Meyer