On paper, it sounds a bit daft: assemble a select crew of indie greats and try to replicate the magic of The Mekons. Who would try such a thing? Bonnie "Prince" Billy, for one. Angel Olsen for another. Emmett Kelly from The Cairo Gang for another. And on and on. The results from this lot, aided by Ben Boye and Van Campbell, are pretty wonderful and as of today they are out on a release from Drag City called Fanatic Voyage.
From the bristling "The Curse" and on to the Angel Olsen-fronted "Love Letter", Fanatic Voyage gets off to a great start. "(Sometimes I Feel Like) Fletcher Christian" sounds like something The Mekons would approve of, and "I Am Crazy" from the criminally-underrated The Mekons Rock 'n' Roll (1989) record is as lyrical as the original cut. Elsewhere, "Last Dance" sounds so full of life that a listener can almost figure out on his or her own that this record was indeed recorded live and mixed in the studio to edit out the crowd noise later. On the nimble "Chivalry", Bonnie "Prince" Billy owns the song as if he wrote it even while still doing service to the Mekons original with his performance.
Fanatic Voyage is not going to make you forget the 10 Mekons classics covered here but it will make you smile. Fans of The Mekons should love this record and take it to heart as much as I did. Even if you are not a huge fan of the band, you should enjoy this. Fanatic Voyage educates a newcomer to The Mekons and provides familiar pleasures for fans of Angel Olsen and Bonnie "Prince" Billy, as well as the other fine musicians on this superb release.
Out today on Drag City, Fanatic Voyage by Chivalrous Amoekons is something special and a real highlight of this autumn's release schedule.
[Photo: Ashley Stinson]