The Mekons are among the few bands surviving from the "glory days" of punk rock 2007 marks their 30th anniversary. The reason for their longevity (aside from their members engaging in an assortment of musical activities apart from Mothership Mekons) is their treating music as a constantly changing, evolving organism. Without being flaky, the Mekons have never trod the same stylistic path for very long, and Natural continues their (anti-) tradition. Most of their new disc is acoustic and folk-oriented, with the 'kons drawing from an assortment of folk traditions. The harmonica echoes Woody Guthrie and Dylan, the lilting rhythms recall calypso, the fiddle's high, lonesome sound carries Anglo-Celtic and pre-country string band conventions, and the restrained electric twang of "Diamonds" recalls Marty Robbins' and Neil Young's desert prairie tales. The most "electric" track here is "Zeroes and Ones," a sea chanty for our cell phone-oriented world ("Planets whirl, bodies entwined/I can't hear you/You're cutting out"). Their adorably ramshackle harmonies convey world-weariness with boozy undertones of perseverance, and Sally Timms' warble remains a heavenly cross between Dolly Parton and Nico. Natural may not be for novices (who are directed to The Mekons Rock 'n' Roll), but the smitten you've gotta have it. If Johnny Cash or H.L. Mencken were born a few generations later, they'd likely be Mekons.
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