The battles we fought were long and hard: the best of the Mekons

Devotees of self-help tomes love listing weaknesses and strengths. The cannier ones realize they exist as a dialectic. Often a shambles, the Mekons also have pulled themselves together a few times over the years to cough out a few anthems that the faithful revere. I suppose they invented cow punk; certainly they invented the idea of covering Hank Williams with a shambles of a rhythm section and vocals drunk on fear and whiskey. Yet these anthems are loud and yearning anyway, their passion inspired by a gang of men and women who were outsiders during the Reagan-Bush I era and, embarrassingly, sidelined during the Clinton era too. I accept the conventional wisdom about their good albums, holding special affection for 1989’s Mekons Rock ‘n Roll and 2002’s rage-against-the-dying-of-the-light OOOH!, which boasts the shrewdest Emily Dickinson allusion in rock history. There are so many.

1. Hard to be Human Again
2. Only Darkness Has the Power
3. Hello Cruel World
4. Blow Your Tuneless Trumpet
5. Only You and Your Ghost Will Know
6. Memphis, Egypt
7. Garage d’Or
8. Chivalry
9. When Darkness Falls
10. Wild and Blue
11. Dancing in the Head
12. Millionaire
13. Country
14. The Curse
15. Authority
16. Oblivion
17. 100% Song
18. Lost Highway
19. Slightly South of the Border
20. Last Weeks of the War
21. Alone and Forsaken
22. Last Weeks of the War
23. Dark Dark Dark
24. The Prince of Darknes

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