Punk and folk music don't seem like the most intuitive coupling, but for the long-running band the Mekons, the combination makes sense musically and politically.
Director Joe Angio's loving tribute, "Revenge of the Mekons," explores the cult band's inexplicable longevity. A ragtag bunch of radical art students at the University of Leeds in England, the Mekons came up in the late '70s alongside Gang of Four, relying on their attitude and ideals to disguise their lack of musical prowess. But they evolved, adopting traditional English folk and American country music as influences, skillfully articulating the inherent themes of working-class struggle in the way only socialist British punks could.
"Revenge of the Mekons" initially introduces us to the band now, during a recording session for its album "Ancient & Modern," before flashing back to detail its founding in the British punk scene and eventual jump to major labels.
The group's lineup is constantly shifting, and there's a conspiracy theory about the "curse" that has kept it underground. We come to have growing affection for and understanding of the Mekons, as each member gets a singular portrait. These different individuals come together to make up the Mekons collective, which produces something magical on stage.
Like many music documentaries, this film suffers from the tendency to reiterate its point too often. Nevertheless, it asserts that clearly the Mekons' revenge has been their continued success, in making music with friends completely on their own terms.
"Revenge of the Mekons."
No MPAA rating.
Total running time: 1 hour 35 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena; also Monday at Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood, and Tuesday at Laemmle's Royal, West L.A.