Empathy For The Evil
M’lady’s Records/Mecca Normal
Canadian duo Mecca Normal have continued on over three decades releasing records that are all cut from their minimalist palette, clean – and then a bit fuzzy – guitar, best served in shards and a passionate spoken/sung punk polemic. It’s business-as-usual then, in a sense, for Jean Smith and David Lester, the template of Patti Smith’s earliest performances, when accompanied only by Lenny Kaye, seems – still – to be the sound these two have found their own version of; founded their style upon, around, inside.
From the broken balladry of Wasn’t Said to the wobbly, woozy, moody storytelling of Between Livermore and Tracy it’s hard not to hear this as Patti Smith if she’d never discovered the rock’n’roll backbeat – and I mean that as compliment, naturally.
Recorded in 2012, held over, released late last year, this is Mecca Normal’s first album in nearly a decade. The pair have been busy with other projects (graphic novels and unpublished writing that now informs the lyrics you’ll here hear, other bands) but there’s a vitality in hearing Lester and Smith back together in this way. As always their particular brand of politically-motivated fire and snarl is a sort of musical revenge served cold, the lick and curl and snarl of guitar mostly working in support rather than striking out on its own.
As with new work or performances by those sorts of outsider-type/outlier-esque artists, John S. Hall, Jonathan Richman, heck even Billy Bragg when it comes down to it, it’s just nice to know they’re still doing it. Strangely comforting, reassuring. But the work on Empathy for the Evil sounds as good as Mecca Normal ever has. So there’s that too. Rock on, Vancouver’s finest.