TS: Mekons vs. Gang of Four

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(Very long rant omitted.)

Mekons.

xero (xero), Saturday, 18 February 2006 15:30 (eleven years ago) Permalink

gang of four for sure.
i predict they will also win the thread.

mooshy, Saturday, 18 February 2006 15:38 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Mekons = 2 great singles
Gang of 4 = 1 great single & 1 great album

Niall, Saturday, 18 February 2006 15:41 (eleven years ago) Permalink

GoF

Redd Harvest (Ken L), Saturday, 18 February 2006 15:44 (eleven years ago) Permalink

WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Saturday, 18 February 2006 15:47 (eleven years ago) Permalink

So Mekons, then?

xero (xero), Saturday, 18 February 2006 15:49 (eleven years ago) Permalink

i repeat

Mekons = 2 great singles

wtf?

midi sanskrit (sanskrit), Saturday, 18 February 2006 15:49 (eleven years ago) Permalink

apparently gang of four wins.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Saturday, 18 February 2006 15:50 (eleven years ago) Permalink

well, i love some mekons stuff, but Go4 released one undeniably perfect, and unique, album. and there's so much mekons stuff out there it's too much work to sort through.

Go4, then.

Mitya (mitya), Saturday, 18 February 2006 18:09 (eleven years ago) Permalink

gang of fourrrr

buyabiznatch (buyabiznatch), Saturday, 18 February 2006 18:43 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Gang Of Four released one undeniably classic album, and a fair amount ofabsolute crap. The Mekons have released a couple of undeniably classic albums, and a little bit of absolute crap, and a lot of mediocre stuff.

The Mekons, by math.

js (honestengine), Saturday, 18 February 2006 19:03 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Almost exactly my own reasoning, js.

I'm unsurprised by the results here but did wonder what people would say (alternate thread titles: "OPO: Shouty (Ex-)Marxist/Socialist Art Students out of Leeds University in the 70s"; "TS: Humor vs. Really Fucking Harsh Irony"). This was a very tough call for me, but my dislike, in some cases intense, for most of what Gang of Four have done since 1982 (including, yes, extra-musical considerations) helped tip it to the Mekons.

The breakdown:
song - tie
album - Gang of Four
stylistic innovations & success & lasting influence thereof - Gang of Four
live spectacle - both great, but reduced for convenience's sake to "beating up microwave ovens with aluminum bats /vs./ miming being ass-fucked with tail of bandmate costumed as the Devil" - Mekons
entire musical output considered as a whole - Mekons
all considerations apart from merit of the bands' musical output (cf. Clear Channel, Hard Rock Cafe, remixes, unironic fog machines, Karate Kid soundtrack, Morningwood as opening band, etc etc etc etc) - Mekons>(infinity)>Gang of Four

xero (xero), Saturday, 18 February 2006 19:34 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Mekons by 8.6 light years.

sleeve (sleeve), Saturday, 18 February 2006 20:02 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Gang of Four were better at punk/postpunk than the Mekons. But Fear & Whiskey, Rock n' Roll and OOOH put Mekons over the top.

Mekons

kornrulez6969 (TCBeing), Saturday, 18 February 2006 20:50 (eleven years ago) Permalink

gang of 4

sovietpanda (sovietpanda), Sunday, 19 February 2006 02:10 (eleven years ago) Permalink

So far we have Gang of Four 6, Mekons 4 (counting posts with clear / intelligible votes only), which is actually much closer than I expected.

xero (xero), Sunday, 19 February 2006 02:14 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Gang of Four were better at punk/postpunk than the Mekons. But Fear & Whiskey, Rock n' Roll and OOOH put Mekons over the top.

OTM, though I'd replace Fear and Whiskey with So Good It Hurts.

xero (xero), Sunday, 19 February 2006 02:17 (eleven years ago) Permalink

mekons so so so easily

j blount (papa la bas), Sunday, 19 February 2006 02:25 (eleven years ago) Permalink

This isn't even hard - the Gang of Four released two fantastic albums and numerous single sides before sliding irreparably to "Karate Kid 2" - for nearly a quarter of century, they managed only "Hard," an inconsequential live album, two hideous "comeback albums" and a meager amount of solo work. Their more recent comeback album is actually excellent, but features only 25+ year old tunes.

The Mekons have had their ups and downs, and it's probably fair to say that - despite early classics such as Never Been In A Riot," "Where Were You?", "Teeth," "Rosanne," "Guardian," "Snow," "Karen" and a few others - the Gang of Four were more consistent early on. But for both bands, I've only compared two albums and related singles -since then the Mekons have been generally great - sometimes incredible (I'd cite "Fun 90," "Rock And Roll," "Fear & Whiskey" and "So Good It Hurts" as some of the best releases in the past 20 years) and always at least worth a spin. More than I can say for "Mall" or "Shrinkrapped" or "Dispossession" or introducing the world to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And that's not even including the many odd perfect moments that the Mekons still manage - their weird but perfect remake of "Sporting Life" last year, for one.

Plus they have a sense of humor!

Mekons by a mile.

dee xtro (dee xtro), Sunday, 19 February 2006 03:18 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Mekons

cracktivity1 (cracktivity1), Sunday, 19 February 2006 04:38 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Right now I'd rather listen to Rock and Roll over Entertainment!

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Sunday, 19 February 2006 06:00 (eleven years ago) Permalink

for nearly a quarter of century, they managed only "Hard," an inconsequential live album, two hideous "comeback albums" and a meager amount of solo work

Yeah, except that Shrinkwrapped wasn't hideous -- "I Parade Myself" was even kind of great, with an echo of "Damaged Goods" in that "bye, bye, bye..." at the end; and I liked the symmetry of beginning and ending their songwriting career with the same verbal move.

Their more recent comeback album is actually excellent

None of those versions are better the originals, a few are a lot worse, and it all sounds literally as though it was recorded in a vacuum. Anyway Mekons did all that in 2004. Punk Rock's new arrangements and production were different enough to be interesting and sometimes much better. See also Wire's reworkings on It's Beginning To and Back Again (1989).

"Dispossession"

Never heard this and would like to, just for completeness.

Plus [Mekons] have a sense of humor!

Good point, though it seemed to me that Gang of Four had something like a sense of humor, albeit one that exceeded mere sarcasm to such a degree that it was practically the same as not having a sense of humor.

xero (xero), Sunday, 19 February 2006 08:50 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Mekons has lasted so long, and has sung ghosts of american astronauts

anthony easton (anthony), Sunday, 19 February 2006 10:22 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Part of my vote may also be attributed to the fact that I heard the Mekons first. Their "Memphis, Egypt," was on a CMJ sampler that my dad picked up when I was in elementary school, and I liked it enough to go digging for more Mekons. Over time, my tastes changed, but there were always more Mekons albums to meet my changing tastes. I found Entertainment in the basement not too long after hearing the Mekons, but when I tracked down more (which I think did mean going right to the Karate Kid soundtrack after Entertainment), I was profoundly disappointed and didn't look for anything else for years. Even when I did, it didn't have the punch for me.

js (honestengine), Sunday, 19 February 2006 15:42 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I love Go4, but when they write a song as frightening as "Only Darkness Has The Power," please let me know.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Sunday, 19 February 2006 15:59 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I can only imagine that the folks backing Go4 so fervently simply haven't heard enough Mekons, who have released maybe just one or two bum records over the course of their many albumed career, and for a long stretch in the '80s were simply amazing on every front. I mean, I love the first three Go4 albums (yes, all three of them). But then it stops there. The Mekons just kept (and keep) going and going, and are still capable of releasing a classic album this far into their career (like OOOH).

In other words: "Fear and Whiskey," "Honky Tonkin," "The Edge of the World," "So Good It Hurts," "Rock 'n' Roll," "Curse of the Mekons" and "OOOH!" all = classic, with the possible bonus inclusion of "I [Heart] Mekons" and "Journey to the End of the Night." And the "Fun 90" EP. Hell, even the live ROIR release is great. Collect 'em all!

Maybe a more fair fight would be Mekons vs. Wire, since at least Wire has remained interesting and viable.

Josh in Chicago (Josh in Chicago), Sunday, 19 February 2006 16:00 (eleven years ago) Permalink

(That'd be a lot closer of a fight, though I think I'd take Wire.)

js (honestengine), Sunday, 19 February 2006 16:14 (eleven years ago) Permalink

remember Option magazines love for the Mekons? They had the Mekons Watch column, and sold a t-shirt with a huge list of music genres on the back, the last one being "Mekons".

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Sunday, 19 February 2006 16:39 (eleven years ago) Permalink

It's not a fair competition, the Mekons easily!

TRG (TRG), Sunday, 19 February 2006 17:18 (eleven years ago) Permalink

"Only Darkness Has The Power"

That is an absolutely fantastic song. "And darkness is what surrounds me, so I can open my heart to the world." The guitar part in the last twenty-five seconds is one of the things I love most in all of music.

Part of my vote may also be attributed to the fact that I heard the Mekons first.

Much of the reason that this was at all difficult for me was that I heard and saw Gang of Four when they were still very very great, and didn't really get the Mekons until several years later with Rock'n'Roll.

I love the first three Go4 albums (yes, all three of them)

Same here -- up through AND INCLUDING Songs of the Free: unfuckwithable.

A brilliant set of web pages exists called "Deck of Cards: Myth, History, Mekons." It is no longer online but can still be accessed via the Wayback Machine, here.

The Deck of Cards in our title refers to a worn and weary routine, a sappy classic, which regularly hit the country music charts. In a sanctimonious and sentimental tone, a condemned man or a dying soldier reveals how each card, every number and suit, king, queen and jack, teaches a lesson about the road to salvation or good conduct in this life.

This method of allegorical reading, even in such a kitschy form, draws upon the power of scenes, images and objects to generate meaning and galvanize thought. Walter Benjamin supplies the methodological touchstone for this procedure [...] Such a mode of representation, of rubbing history against the grain, proves useful as a technique of cultural survival. It's no accident that the Mekons are still alive and kicking after 20 years in the bizness.

The Mekons Deck of Cards: a graphic interface which projects the imaginary potential of myth onto the productive sphere of historical agency. [...]

Let's play. Cut the deck, dealer calls, Mekons shuffle...

Mekons 11, Gang of Four 6.

xero (xero), Sunday, 19 February 2006 19:43 (eleven years ago) Permalink

For such an aggressive guitar-anchored song "Only Darkness Has The Power" projects an elusiveness that borders on intractability. Darkness has the power...to what? What is the speaker still doing in Sophie's bed - to keep the darkness out? Greenhalgh and Langford's murmurred "hmms" before each chorus reenforce this.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Sunday, 19 February 2006 20:14 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Yes, that combination of verbal evasiveness / indeterminacy and sonic aggression is exactly makes it so amazing. "Do you trust me to tell the truth? Do you trust me?"

xero (xero), Sunday, 19 February 2006 20:21 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Mekons, by a good distance, for the reasons outlined above. The Mekons body of work seems closer to The Fall's than to a brilliant but brief nova like GoF's.

Abu Hamster (noodle vague), Sunday, 19 February 2006 20:24 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Mekons in a landslide. I love Entertainment and some other GoF stuff but the Mekons to me are one of the greatest bands. Many good albums over many years.

polyphonic (polyphonic), Sunday, 19 February 2006 20:40 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Another pro Mekons vote. Many people above have articulated why better than I could. For me, mainly b/c the mekons are just more fun to listen to.

Pashmina (Pashmina), Sunday, 19 February 2006 21:26 (eleven years ago) Permalink

mekons + gang of four = delta 5

so im just gonna say delta 5.

maria tessa sciarrino (theoreticalgirl), Sunday, 19 February 2006 22:48 (eleven years ago) Permalink

For such an aggressive guitar-anchored song "Only Darkness Has The Power" projects an elusiveness that borders on intractability. Darkness has the power...to what? What is the speaker still doing in Sophie's bed - to keep the darkness out? Greenhalgh and Langford's murmurred "hmms" before each chorus reenforce this.

Not that it isn't a great song, but the lyrics are entirely ripped from "The Locked Room" by Paul Auster. It's a very odd feeling to be reading a book and suddenly realize that you've heard the passage you're reading before. Whatever, the fiddle/guitar interplay in that song is fucking fantastic.

And Mekons, definitely. I would argue that "Like Spoons No More," the first song on Quality of Mercy, stands up to just about any Go4 song. Going on from there, Original Sin, Honky Tonkin', Edge of the World, Rock'n'Roll, and OOOH! are all fantastic. I saw Jon Langford and Sally Timms last week, doing their performance of The Executioner's Last Songs, and they're still marvelously entertaining. Must pick up Langford's new CD next month.

Clotpoll (Clotpoll), Monday, 20 February 2006 01:38 (eleven years ago) Permalink

the lyrics [of "Only Darkness Has the Power"] are entirely ripped from "The Locked Room" by Paul Auster

Wow, I had no idea. Thanks. ...Yeah, the Executioner's Last Songs show was great, very much an autobiographical revue; and on a Mekon-related fashion note, I must find (or possibly even try to make if need be) a dress exactly like the one Ms. Timms had on, though I cannot sing "Long Black Veil" or anything else.

One wonders what may be next for Mekons, with the backward-looking Punk Rock their latest release and all of Langford's other activity.

mekons + gang of four = delta 5
so im just gonna say delta 5.

Though I can't honestly say that Delta 5 were better or even more important to me than those other bands, I am very glad to have the reissue.

This was posted elsewhere on ILM a few weeks ago, but what the hell: Gang of Four covering "Rosanne," Chicago 1979; the distaste with which Jon King snaps the line about "soppy romancin'" cracks me up every time.
http://s57.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=17FHT412LF2H93UH7LSMB6CYBT

xero (xero), Monday, 20 February 2006 02:49 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Fewer derivative bands inspired by the Mekons ...

Mekons. Always the Mekons.

Edward Bordas (edb), Monday, 20 February 2006 04:22 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I must find (or possibly even try to make if need be) a dress exactly like the one Ms. Timms had on, though I cannot sing "Long Black Veil" or anything else.

Oh man, she had the greatest outfit ever. I want her crumpled black hat.

clotpoll (Clotpoll), Monday, 20 February 2006 06:13 (eleven years ago) Permalink

I say Mekons, if only because they ripped U2 in "Blow Your Tuneless Trumpet."

Plus I saw them on their farewell tour at CBGBs and they were fucking great live.

Martin Schneider (priceyeah), Monday, 20 February 2006 08:12 (eleven years ago) Permalink

farewell tour

Didn't get the memo. :((((

xero (xero), Monday, 20 February 2006 08:41 (eleven years ago) Permalink

There wasn't a farewell tour, there was a 25th Anniversary tour.

TRG (TRG), Monday, 20 February 2006 19:34 (eleven years ago) Permalink

quantity (mekons) VS quality (gang of four)

sinking a couple pints of of every beer on draught in the bar VS sipping a few shots of top shelf whisky...so gang of four 4 me.

now GANG OF FOUR vs THREE JOHNS might be a tougher pick (and makes more sonic sense as a comparison to my aged ears).

m coleman (lovebug starski), Monday, 20 February 2006 19:56 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Yeah, that was my reasoning too, such as it was.

Redd Harvest (Ken L), Monday, 20 February 2006 20:04 (eleven years ago) Permalink

There wasn't a farewell tour, there was a 25th Anniversary tour

GOOD!

quantity (mekons) VS quality (gang of four)

Point taken; but if you make it about good album:crap album ratios, it's Mekons again for me.

GANG OF FOUR vs THREE JOHNS

Much as I loved "Death of the European," that'd have to be Gang of Four. (Just listened to "I Parade Myself" again ... is that some quality 90s dance-rock sleaze or what.)

Didn't Steve Goulding play drums for both bands?

xero (xero), Monday, 20 February 2006 20:38 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Another reason I've always loved the Mekons is that they capture the anthemic, globetrotting, political aspects of the Clash but - to paraphrase - they cut the crap. The Mekons may be the most important least self-important band ever.

Josh in Chicago (Josh in Chicago), Monday, 20 February 2006 21:07 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Oh, absolutely. If this were Mekons vs. Clash? Mekons, no hesitation WHATSOEVER. The Clash were well-intentioned, thoroughly homosocial dunderheads infatuated with glory and, though I liked 'em well enough when I was 17, most of their music just seems dull as hell now. And Clash vs. Gang of Four? Please. (Though this was good -- Strummer to interviewer: "Don't talk about Clash and Gang of Four. The two bands don't belong in the same sentence." Interviewer: "What kind of sentence do Gang of Four belong in?" Strummer: "A nice long prison sentence." Strummer 1, Go4 0.)

xero (xero), Monday, 20 February 2006 22:03 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Didn't Steve Goulding play drums for both bands?

Wasn't the Three Johns drummer a um (clears throat) drum machine?

The Mekons may be the most important least self-important band ever.

well I'd say supplying a reading list w/yr lyric sheet, asking "Rock & Roll" to answer for its sins etc qualifies as self-important!

m coleman (lovebug starski), Monday, 20 February 2006 23:34 (eleven years ago) Permalink

"both bands" = Mekons and Gang of Four

xero (xero), Monday, 20 February 2006 23:41 (eleven years ago) Permalink

OK I should've figured that out...Hugo Burnham played drums in Gof4. Steve Goulding played in The Rumour IIRC before the Mekons.

m coleman (lovebug starski), Monday, 20 February 2006 23:46 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Yeah, but I believe Goulding also played in Gang of Four post-Hugo.

xero (xero), Monday, 20 February 2006 23:47 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Or "Gang of Four" post- and pre-Hugo, if you want to be precise about it.

xero (xero), Monday, 20 February 2006 23:49 (eleven years ago) Permalink

you're right...

A short biography by Steve Goulding himself:
I was born and raised in South London, England. I left school at 18, and worked in a publishing house and also house-cleaning for a couple of years. I played with bassist Andrew Bodnar in a pub rock band called Bontemps Roulez until we joined the Rumour, later Graham Parker's band, in 1975. After the band split in 1981, I played with Garland Jeffreys on his Escape Artist tour, having previously recorded the ESCAPE ARTIST album with him. Around this time I also played with David Bowie on the Johnny Carson Show at the invitation of GE Smith, who was the guitarist on Garland's album and was playing with Bowie at the time. A stint with the British band the Associates followed, as did a succession of European TV appearances with Roxy Music. A world tour with Lene Lovich led to an audition for Gang Of Four, who I played with for around 18 months until they split.

m coleman (lovebug starski), Monday, 20 February 2006 23:51 (eleven years ago) Permalink

don't mind me I'm a dick sometimes ;)

m coleman (lovebug starski), Monday, 20 February 2006 23:56 (eleven years ago) Permalink

That was not even a blip on the ILM Dickishness-o-Meter(tm).

xero (xero), Tuesday, 21 February 2006 00:01 (eleven years ago) Permalink

Steve Goulding also played on "Let's Go to Bed" by the Cure. And "Watching the Detectives."

x-post Yeah, but I always thought the reading recommendations and other liner note goodness on Mekons albums were kind of "for further research" bonuses, as much a pomo wink as Langford's cover art. Sure, some Mekons albums include bibliographies, but I figured that was not so much self-importance at work as it was the band's modest, honest eagerness to simply credit sources of inspiration.

Josh in Chicago (Josh in Chicago), Tuesday, 21 February 2006 15:13 (eleven years ago) Permalink

seven years pass...

Wow, I've never seen this: Gang of Four, New Year's Eve 1980, with Mekons Jon and Tom and backing vox:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lC7B6FmC0AA#at=59

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 14 August 2013 19:03 (four years ago) Permalink

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lC7B6FmC0AA#at=59

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 14 August 2013 19:03 (four years ago) Permalink

four years pass...

https://www.discogs.com/Mekons-FUN-90/release/5196177

Mekons vs Baggy Dance Beats : i had forgotten just how fantastic this was

mark e, Thursday, 7 September 2017 20:26 (two months ago) Permalink

Plus it's got their great Band cover.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 7 September 2017 20:32 (two months ago) Permalink

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42WnZxLYWrM

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 7 September 2017 20:33 (two months ago) Permalink

indeed.
love it.

mark e, Thursday, 7 September 2017 20:34 (two months ago) Permalink


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