“Building” The Mekons

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I just finished reading Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, a book of cultural criticism that, although amazing, is also kinda long and kinda mystifying. Dude goes into a lot of detail about a lot of stuff and the nuances of said detail sometimes went a bit over my head. (Sample sentence: “The history of the twentieth century was to be the account of the creation of reality through its erasure: through killing people, through the extermination of subjective objects, of realized or potential individual as forests to be cleared.”) That being said, it’s an enthralling book, and one that puts a whole lot of thought into what punk music meant to the world in the late 1970’s and beyond, both musically and culturally. Marcus’ main focus is on The Sex Pistols—he teases Johnny Rotten’s “I am an Antichrist” lineage back through the ages, discussing, among numerous others groups, the Dadaists in Zurich and Berlin, the Brethren of the Free Spirit in medieval Europe, and the French spectacle collective the Situationist International—but the last song he discusses is The Mekons “Building,” which for Marcus represents the sum total of punk music –it’s crude, archaic and beautiful. I’m not totally sure I agree—it’s just a guy yelling in an echo-filled room—but listening to “Building” did represent the conclusion of something for me. Most obviously this was Lipstick Traces but it was also my sense of what history is and punk could be. Lighght. Riot Grrrl. The Treachery of Images and I’m Not There.

-Jeff Alessandrelli

jeff-a.-zs-portraitJeff Alessandrelli is the author of the full-length collection THIS LAST TIME WILL BE THE FIRST. Other work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Powder Keg, Gulf Coast, Boston Review and four chapbooks. The name of Jeff’s dog is Beckett Long Snout. The name of his micro-press is Dikembe Press.

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Contact Jackie Clark: jackie [at] coldfrontmag [dot] com.

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