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It’s been so long since the uncompromising, indefatigable Mekons have released a record that many had suspected a quiet retirement. Ancient & Modern is worth the wait, however, at least for fans of the band. As might be implied by the title, the LP works in a variety of styles, everything from gentle balladry (“I Fall Asleep,” sung by Tom Greenlagh) to torch songs (“Geeshie,” “Ugly Bethesda,” crooned by Sally Timm) to noisy rock & roll (“Space in Your Face,” “Honey Bear,” sung by Jon Langford and Greenlagh). But the main musical thrust is a sort of exotic folk rock, mostly British in origin and supporting the usual provocative lyrical barbs, but with the flavors of every other musical spice the band has picked up in its nearly 35 years of existence. The odd but appealing “The Devil at Rest,” “Calling All Demons” and title cut slyly subvert the folk melodies and subject matter of old-time music, folding traditional elements into the band’s own distinctive sound. The result is one of the Mekons’ most enticing records, rewarding multiple spins and signaling a band still in the prime of its long life.
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