Night moves

The Mekons join forces from both sides of the pond to bring forth a new album

These days, the band is split between England and America: Greenhalgh, Corina, Honeyman, and Edmonds live over there; Langford, Timms, Bell and Goulding live over here -- in Chicago. It's been this way for the past decade or so, and you can hear it on the Mekons' records. Whether or not the effect is intentional, the records have been fragmented; they seem to be works of individuals contributing to a greater good, not the work of a unit. An ocean separates the songwriters, and it has showed. Retreat From Memphis, I (Heart) Mekons, Pussy, and Me are wonderful records but not nearly as seamless as earlier efforts.

For Journey, though, the Mekons seem to have perfected the long-distance relationship. "It's a snatched bit of conversation whenever," says Greenhalgh of the current process. "It's not like some sort of managed, democratic organization where things seem to be done aboveboard and so forth. It's a bit more ad hoc. Basically before we'll approach an album we'll have a rough idea of what kind of theme it will have, what kind of song we're going to try and write, just purely out of practicality, really, because everyone's so spread out and we have limited resources. So when we get together, we have to work really quickly. So it just helps to have some kind of focus, some kind of sounding board to say, 'Well, this idea might be fine, but it doesn't work with what we're doing right now.'"

Though Greenhalgh says that it wasn't intentional, Journey recalls the Mekons' '80s work. Gone is the fast-and-loud tone that peppered many of their '90s records; in its place is a gentle resignation. Honeyman's violin is more prominent, Corina's bass dives deep into dub and the singers -- four of them rotate, though Timms inevitably (and deservedly) gets most of the attention -- whisper and moan more than they scream and cry. Again they recall country music, but Journey is not a country record. They recall rock, but it's not rock. And they wade into electronics; a hum permeates many of Journey's songs.

Hanging on the telephone: Since its members live on both sides of the Atlantic, the Mekons, says Tom Greenhalgh, are a bit more ad hoc these days.
Brad Miller
Hanging on the telephone: Since its members live on both sides of the Atlantic, the Mekons, says Tom Greenhalgh, are a bit more ad hoc these days.

"It's clearly a complete about-face from Me," says Greenhalgh, "in the sense that we were trying to write much harder, impersonal kind of lyrics with Me, and this is a deliberate attempt to write something more somber, more subdued and so forth -- and also just to keep the instrumentation as plain as possible and avoid the harder, cleaner sound. We decided we wanted to make a quiet record that would be a real middle-of-the-night record, make it quite subdued, quite pessimistic, in some ways."

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