Record Review 

No band has a monopoly on long, strange trips. Not when Britain's the Mekons still actively tour. From obscure, anarchic rebels in 1977 to major label hopefuls in 1989 to the group's current standing as scruffy Americana heart-of-gold post-punks, the Mekons' nearly two dozen releases can be as confusing as traveling cross-country without a road map. To celebrate the Mekons' 25th anniversary, the current band -- featuring only Jon Langford and Tom Greenhalgh from the original lineup -- has rerecorded and reinterpreted dusty tracks from the group's early winding years.

Not surprisingly, the resulting Punk Rock's simplistic title doesn't convey the selections' defiant disarray. There's an acoustic love song ("What"), droning transformed into something approximating a morphine-injected Oriental folk tune ("This Sporting Life"), experimental Appalachian folk-styled picking ("Chopper Squad") and Neil Young/Crazy Horse-styled stomp ("Lonely and Wet," "Corporal Chalkie"). Shambling, lurching qualities typically characterize the Mekons' near-indefinable sound.

But the punk adjective more directly applies when the band returns to its scrappy late-'70s roots on the propulsive "I'm So Happy," the lockstep, early Clash attack of "32 Weeks," and the spastic Gang of Four-style funk of "Trevira Trousers." Closing the disc is a raging live version of "Dan Dare," also the title of the sci-fi comic that provided the Mekons' spacey name. It brings the group full circle on an album as maddeningly befuddled, eclectic, infuriating and ultimately lovable as any in the Mekons' extensive, twisted career.

The Mekons perform at the Echo Lounge Tues., March 16. $12.


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