After two singles for Fast Product, Leeds art-punk collective The Mekons signed with Virgin Records in 1979. The band would have to borrow gear from their mates Gang Of Four to record their major label debut. In classic Mekons style, the album’s back cover featured a photo of Gang Of Four instead of themselves.
As Simon Reynolds writes, “The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strnen got a mixed reception at the time. Listening to it now, though, the first LP sounds more of a piece with the band’s early punk singles. What’s striking is the commonality of sound across the three key Leeds groups of that moment (Gang Of Four, Delta 5 and The Mekons). There are textural affinities in terms of scrawny abrasiveness and a general departure from rock ‘n’ roll norms of singing and emoting.”
With boundless energy, The Mekons net a dozen barbed takes on pop culture, art and politics. “What Are We Going To Do Tonight” stands out as a razor-sharp critique of leisure, while “Beetroot” drowns apathy in angular riffs and catchy, unmelodic chants.
Clad in one of the most striking record covers of its era, The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strnen is now available in the US for the first time. Liner notes by Simon Reynolds.
(Superior Viaduct Records)