Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Roots punks contemplate current affairs and conclude Armageddon is upon us

Thirty years after they formed in Leeds, and fifteen or so after most of them relocated to America, the Mekons return to England for their quietest and weirdest album since 1982's The Mekons Story. Replete with chants, harmonicas, found percussion and an extra helping of haunted London holdout Tom Greenhalgh, Natural eschews the comforting competence of unplugged la MTV. Instead it delivers the ramshackle, ritualistic, druids-at-Stonehenge mood that campfire crusties at U.K. festivals like Glastonbury aspire to. Convinced Armageddon is upon us, the Mekons are determined to get in some mournful Earth worship first, and for fans who feel the spirit, songs will emerge. Try the beyond-thematic "Dark Dark Dark," the Iraq-meets-Palm Springs "Burning in the Desert Burning" or the reggaefied "Cockermouth," in which Jon Langford's distracted "I ramble" sinks into Sally Timms' gentle "You have to believe this is the end." Maybe it's not the end. But it's a taste.

Rolling Stone, Sept. 6, 2007