When punk’s Mount Rushmore is etched, it will likely feature Sid Vicious, Joe Strummer and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, but it should depict the 75 or so past and present members of the Ex, the Fall and the Mekons, three bands who have been slogging it out since the ’70s. The first two of those stories have been nicely told in the documentaries The Ex: Beautiful Frenzy and The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E. Smith. Now the third gets its due in this accessible and polished 95-minute profile by Joe Angio (a former editor-in-chief of Time Out New York).
The engaging film details the Mekons’ four decades of membership changes, financial uncertainty, political outspokenness and perseverance. It charts their progression from punk upstarts to displaced folkies and from rebellious art students to rock elders. Angio reveals a band that is still committed and, almost without precedent, still seems to get along. “We weren’t musicians,” singer-guitarist Jon Langford admits. “We were just seeing how far we could take it.” If revenge can be measured in years of continued creativity, this film shows the Mekons have had theirs.