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I’ve Been to Heaven and Back: Hen’s Teeth and Other Lost
Fragments of Un-Popular Culture, Vol. 1
Live-and-outtakes collections should leave the average consumer quaking in his wallet—such is the potential for total disaster. (Dylan’s Self-Portrait and that third Hound Dog Taylor album spring to mind.) But if you’re Mekons, and a devotion to aural diversity (not to mention disastrous music-biz luck resulting in scads of unheard music) has been your thing for more than two decades, well, then bring on the leftovers. Heaven and Back runs from 1980 to now and brims over with the politics of romance, socialism as punch line, drunken mumbled rants, country fiddles and accordions paired with drum machines, anthemic title tracks, and the all-time best version of “Oranges and Lemons.” Hear Jon Langford and Tom Greenhalgh since their clumsy beginnings, and listen to them turning into the alt-everything pros you never thought they had the guts to become. “The Ballad of Sally” and “Now We Have the Bomb” show that goddess Sally Timms still has the brassiest and heartbreakin’est British voice this side of the late D. Springfield. It’s a fearless career surveyed, with humor and pathos abounding. (And I do mean fearless: Check out the astonishingly suave cover of Rod Stewart’s “You Wear It Well.”) —Joe Gross