Song Of The Day
the old iPod served this up on the drive in, and oh it was fine. I am a bit disappoint that the band did not play it in Chicago, but considering the inextricable place the Welsh Men’s Choir has toward the end, it is probably best served in it’s natural state.
Ancient and Modern, the title track of the most recent album. And oh yes, it is indeed an album; the songs fit together, although they are not sequential; in a modern twist, they can be played in random orders, for more or less synchronicity; but the release was offered in vinyl, and it had fold outs and detailed liner notes with elegant graphical design. I could not abide with just the digital download, myself, so I bought both.
The song did not exist on the Utuber, so I made this for you out of stone knives and bearskins:
The song starts quietly, Lu picking his saz (maybe a mandolin?). Rico Bell begins with the plaintive vocals while strummed guitar joins in, returning to the refrain “I had a minor breakdown” after every other line. The vocal pause before ‘breakdown’ makes it seem he is losing track…
Drums start accentuating and accelerating the song as Rico repeats the refrain; when he sings about exotic birds, he breaks the meter and hums off into the darkness, creating amazing tension in the song.
The mask of nothingness marks the entrance of the second theme; Sara with a spoken piece, in which the minor breakdown reappears, and Susie Honeyman’s violin enters the picture, with Rico’s accordion mournfully playing counterpoint in the background. Then Tom enters with a third Edwardian theme, singing along in a broken tenor; and Sally Timms completes the theme with another spoken piece, after which Tom completes the lyrics with another verse. As Tom sings the verses, the violin starts soaring and coming to the fore, driving the song into a more upbeat tempo. Just setting the table for the next bit…
And then…. AND THEN, the Burlington Welsh Male Choir (amusingly enough, a Canadian group) joins in with what is actually the chorus: but they only sing it twice in a row, right at the end of the song. Look the Mekons are punks and anarchists, they work by instinct, not by typical song structures! Anyway, the Welsh brigade sing this:
Today we shall war against the roaring of the sea
Look back to land and see sorrow
The light will be darkened and they shall come with speed
Ancient and Modern tomorrow.
Wow. That’s as close to an epic as the Mekes have gotten since Orpheus, and it clear fuck knocks me out. Sorrow and anomie and the past, the bleak present, a sliver of hope for tomorrow – but just a sliver. On first listen, It sounds like merely a traditionally inflected alt-folk tune, but it’s bones are punk as fuck.