Revenge Of The Mekons


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

 Revenge Of The Mekons
"A reminder that punk has, throughout its history, been as much a creative force as a destructive one."

Founded in 1977 at the University of Leeds, the Mekons have proven to be the most resilient of all the original punk bands, still making music today - and doing a lot more besides. This enthusiastic documentary mixes archive footage with present day interviews in an attempt to understand how it all happened.

Given the sheer number of Mekons there have been over the years (close to threatening Spinal Tap's record), it may have been quite a challenge to track them down, but it's easy enough to get them talking. Having developed separately from other bands of the era (with the exception of the Gang of Four) they don't have anecdotes full of famous names, but they're not short of things to say, especially as their career has covered so much. From the raw punk of their early days (when they really didn't know how to play their instruments) through their protest music and involvement in activism to their discovery of folk and bluegrass, and on into experimentation with the visual arts, there's a lot of story. Fans may be disappointed that none of this is explored in much depth but it's difficult to see how there could have been room. Newcomers will find it an intriguing introduction and an inspiring tale.

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All the classic elements of a rambling yarn are here: tragedy, comedy, romance, a mysterious curse, even a wedding at the end. There is also the music, with the reinvention of American traditions a key topic and a reminder that punk has, throughout its history, been as much a creative force as a destructive one. As with those early haphazard songs, what makes it work is a combination of passion and utter sincerity, even when there's also humour.

The trick, the Mekons say, has been never expecting to make a living from it. After a single major record deal which they now describe as naive, they set out to do everything on their own. Even if it meant they had to do other jobs on the side, it allowed them to stick to their principles. The result has been a continual stream of fresh ideas born not only from that rare artistic freedom but also from continual connection with the 'real' world - something that has spared them the ignominy of trotting out to rehash old hits and has kept their music very much in the now. It makes the idea of a film retrospective feel a little odd, as the story is far from over - but perhaps this will turn out to be merely part one.

Reviewed on: 01 Feb 2015
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The story of the Leeds punk band who have somehow managed to keep going since the Seventies, winning serious acclaim along the way.
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Director: Joe Angio

Starring: Vito Acconci, Fred Armisen, Rico Bell

Year: 2013

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: US


Glasgow 2015

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