The Mekons’ first single, “Never Been in a Riot,” was the birth of postpunk self-awareness: its sarcastic lyrics skewered the Clash’s simpleminded anthem “White Riot” even as its chaotically lurching music outrocked them. The Mekons have sustained a balance between skepticism and exhilaration ever since, while exploring an extraordinarily wide range of musical styles, including dub reggae, country and western, rap, primitive electronics, township jive, spoken word with music, and rock and roll. Their albums are thought-provoking affairs; one offered a list of recommended reading, including Friedrich Engels’s Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State and Ashra Kumari Burman’s Easy Indian Vegetarian Cookery. But in concert the Mekons thrive on chaos. While chanteuse Sally Timms feigns worldweary disinterest, guitarist-singers Jon Langford and Tom Greenhalgh careen about the stage feigning sex acts, good-naturedly haranguing the audience about politics and pop culture, and bashing out unforgettable riffs. After disastrous flirtations with two major labels, they’ve just released the most accessible record of their career, I Love Mekons, on Chicago’s own Quarterstick records. Opening are Cath Carroll, an English-born purveyor of languid pop songs, and Seam, a brooding guitar band with a knack for building songs up to emotional climaxes. Wednesday, 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Brad Miller.