My first encounter with Black Mekon came from the 2017 PNKSLM label release ‘One in the Hate’, a cracking collection of tracks which included ‘Salt Liquor’*; sub-two minutes of outstanding hip-grinding garage blues. Destroy Nostalgia is currently a digital only release with a limited number of vinyl copies available at their live shows.
Black Mekon are a reverse foxtrot of a band with their tracks being quick, quick, slow, slow, quick. Some tracks barely make it past the 1 minute mark and some reach the ripe old age of 3 or 5 minutes. Like label mates, and fellow Birmingham residents, Cherry Pickles they are a duo that must practice some dark alchemy to create a bigger sound than should be possible from just two people. They state on their Bandcamp page that they are “2 brothers, Black Mekon and Black Mekon. Some bull about a fake country and loud guitars or something. Not soaring or melodic. We play everywhere. Really short songs. Sexy. A bit old. Don’t have a driving licence between us. Not radio friendly. Quite friendly. Hate Bios.”
But cryptic bio aside it’s the music that will hook you. Destroy Nostalgia is 26 minutes of fuzzed-up swagger. If you want finesse and surgical precision, then look away now as this is the giddy joy of the low down and dirty. It’s all riffs, riffs, RIFFS! Riffs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Where some (more self-indulgent) acts would take an age setting up a song opening tracks ‘Immunity’ and ‘Sympathise’ hit the ground running like a Berserker on fire. Just at the point when your brain is processing how amazing this first song is then it’s over and we’re half way through the second track and your brain must catch up and realise how awesome this new track is.
There are two speeds for Black Mekon: out-of-control-drag-racer and drunk-slow-dancing-with-a-lover-at-2am. After 2 tracks of drag racing thrills it’s time for the drunk-dance medley starting with ‘Koz’, which is reminiscent of a scuffed-up version of ‘Invisible Sun’ by The Police; the sleazy catwalk sashay of ‘That Man (Right Now)’ and ‘Do You Think I’m a Junkie?’ a slow waltz that Roger Waters would be proud of; haunting and unsteady on its frets like an opium dream with chords.
‘Ghetto Bug’ is twinned with ‘Baptised’. The former is a light repeated riff over sidestick and cowbell which collides with the heft of ‘Baptised’ stampeding like a herd of fuzz-boxes and recalling nineties acts like Age of Chance or Carter USM. ‘Can’t Afford You’ has all the manic energy of a technology-denuded DEVO with half the song driven by tom toms and half by a refrain of crashing high-hat and cymbals. ‘Bob Hodges’ is the album’s final slow dance before one of my favourite tracks ‘300 Ghosts’. This has the raw power of Iggy and the Stooges or MC5; a chilli hot gumbo of guitar riff, drums and harmonica that rattles your fillings. It’s a fine track to bring this lean, bristling masterwork to a close.
Black Mekon do a LOT with a little and like the beautiful real estate they own on the outer limits of pop they control the horizontal and the vertical, they can rock and roll the image, make it flutter and change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to a crystal clarity. They finesse grit and could make the ghost of Link Ray weep with joy and I can’t wait to see them live.
Black Mekon plays The Windmill in Brixton on Wed 21st August, The Deaf Centre, Chester on Friday 23rd August and The Night Owl, Birmingham, Saturday 24th August.
Review by Paul F Cook
*you can hear Salt Liquor on Paul’s Mixcloud Indie Compilation LOUD, LOUD, LOUD which also features tracks from ShitKid, Mind Rays, The Coathangers, L.A. Witch, Nelson Can, the late Estrons and many more.