If you haven’t used Pandora before, the premise is that it plays music that is “similar” to music you like. Enter the name of a band you like, presto, you’re listening to other bands you should also like.
Entering “The Mekons” into Pandora is such a brilliant idea that it’s practically modern art. In their — what, is this really possible? — nearly forty year history, they’ve operated in such a wide range of genres that they are essentially unclassifiable. Punk? Yeah, that’s how they started out. Country? Yup, they kind of invented cowpunk in 1985 with the iconic Fear and Whiskey. Rock? You better fricking believe it, and we’ll get to that in a moment. Folk? World music? Surely; how many bands do you know in which the Saz features prominently? Techno? Maybe, I’ll let you be the judge.
So anyway, if you create a Mekons station on Pandora, you certainly won’t get any coherent stream of songs. What you will get is an utterly bizarre and compelling stream of music that doesn’t sound anything like the Mekons. Some of the bands I discovered this way include:
- Guided By Voices
- The Verlaines
- The Chills
- For Against
- The Meeting Places
- Grapes of Wrath
- The Three O’Clock
I know, right?
Anway, let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about Memphis, Egypt. I’m fairly sure this is the best rock and roll song ever. I guess I should try to justify that claim using my usual pseudo-intellectual nonsense, but screw that, let’s just listen to it:
This is just such an amazing song. An utter repudiation of rock music as the opening track on your band’s first major label album? Check. Chuck Berry riff? Check. Unlicensed image of The King on the album cover? Check. First-ever non-pretentious use of a violin in a rock song? Check.
But in general I can’t endorse any music that doesn’t work as, well, music. That Memphis, Egypt manages to succeed on levels other than simply being an amazing song, but not only succeed, to utterly transcend its medium, makes it a singular accomplishment.
Of course there are dozens (hundreds?) of other spectacular Mekons songs, which we’ll get to eventually.
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