Given their checkered history, it’s nothing short of a miracle that the Mekons are celebrating their 25th anniversary. But on Saturday night, there they were on the Troubadour stage, playing with humor, energy and a loose-limbed spunkiness that the recent spate of neo-rock bands (whose members were not even born when the Mekons first performed) would find hard to match.
But a quarter century has not exactly turned the Mekons professional — their nearly two-hour performance (a one-hour set followed by a 45-minute encore) was not streamlined or slick. Instead the music had a lumpy, whiskey-fueled charm. The band’s affection and grumpy camaraderie make it clear this tour is a labor of love.
Following the band’s late-’90s indulgence in art projects, the new album “OOOH” (Touch & Go) returns the Mekons to the burly, politicized country-rock of their landmark disc “Fear and Whiskey.” And the band’s current lineup, mixing raucous guitars and drums with bouzouki, accordion and fiddle, plus up to four voices (including Jon Langford’s blunt baritone, Tom Greenhalgh’s whine and the brandy-and-cream croon of Sally Timms) joining in a kind of harmony, sounded just as at home on the early spiky punk chant of “Never Been in a Riot” as they did swaying to the work-song drawl of “Thee Olde Trip to Jerusalem.”
Like a beat-up old car, dented, noisy and with peeling paint, at first glance, the Mekons will not impress anyone. But it still gets you where you need to go, and the ride is more memorable than one in a flashier vehicle. To paraphrase Neil Young, long may they run.
The Mekons play New York on Sept. 19 at CBGB and Sept. 21 at the Mercury Lounge.