The Mekons boast an impressive resumé, with 26 albums and 34 years of music-making to their name. Though their roots can be found in the first wave of British punk, their sound has evolved continuously since, gradually accumulating a distinct feel of country and Americana. With a virtually untarnished lineup (the newest member, Sarah Corina, joined in 1991), the Mekons today played a free concert at World Cafe Live to promote their new album, Ancient & Modern on Bloodshot Records.

Each member of the eight piece band brought something unique to the performance and belong at once in an arena and a music hall. With Susie Honeyman on the violin, Rico Bell dancing as he played the harmonica, Lu Edmonds plucking the very soul out of a long-necked lute, and lead Mekon Jon Langford on guitar and vocals the band weaves winding melodies with intricate arrangements. They frequently juxtapose musical opposites – such as pounding electric guitars beside airy fiddling in their encore “Hard to be Human,” a song from their 1985 release Fear And Whiskey. For a group of punk-rockers now in their 50s, their vocal power is astonishing: amidst their punky clatter every voice sounds pure and in perfect harmony. Vocalists Tom Greenhalgh and Sally Timms in particular wielded moving emotional might in “Afar and Forlorn” and “I Fall Asleep,” respectively.

What was most apparent in the performance were the close ties that run through the band. Throughout it all, the Mekons carried the good-natured comfort of a bunch of old friends doing what they loved – laughing, fist-pumping, egging each other on, these musicians make it clear that they’re still here because it’s a whole lot of fun.

Listen to the show here at NPR Music. Below the set list, download the song “Space In Your Face” from The Mekons’ new album.

Set list:
1. Thee Olde Trip to Jerusalem
2. Diamonds
3. Afar and Forlorn
4. Geeshie
5. Honey Bear
6. Arthur’s Angel
7. Hole in the Ground.
8. I Fall Asleep
9. Hard To Be Human (not broadcasted)

review written by Seth Simons, WXPN intern, University of Pennsylvania