Enduring Dutch act returns

Emerging from the punk era’s darker-sounding side in the late 1970s, Dutch new-wave band Mecano did not take long to make an impression on the contemporary music scene with unorthodox arrangements, unusual guitar harmonies, as well as considerable provocation for their material’s blend. The act’s perception of itself, as a project that is in «constant evolution,» has helped keep it intact over the years. Despite going their separate ways on numerous occasions, the Amsterdam band’s personnel have repeatedly regrouped to work on specific projects. Founding member and frontman Dirk Polak, who is currently based in Athens, will be joined by the act’s other members for two shows in Greece this week, just days after the release of Menaco’s new album, «Those Revolutionary Days.» The new project was presented at a short party launch in Athens last Saturday night, at the Booze Cooperative club, with Polak in attendance. Propelled by the punk era’s overall momentum, Polak, a lyricist who cites the writings of the early 20th century poet and playwright Vladimir Mayakovsky as a major influence, felt the time was ripe to form his own band. He originally joined forces with early collaborator Pieter Kooyman and several hired musicians to record a single for the No Fun label. Ignited by this initial experience, Polak quickly felt the need to form a real band. The original duo recruited drummer Ton Lebbink, who happened to be working as a bouncer at Amsterdam’s well-known Paradiso club. The bouncer brought to the band a couple more Paradiso employees, the siblings Tejo and Cor Bolten. Besides offering musical ability to the nascent outfit, the arrival of the Bolten brothers gave the band unlimited access to the Paradiso venue, which Mecano regularly used as a rehearsal space during their embryonic days. It was here that the act began experimenting with ideas, mostly around the ideas of Polak and the Bolten duo. Tejo Bolten remains an active member of the band. Mecano made their stage debut in the summer of 1979 and followed up with frequent touring on the alternative circuit. This early period included an attention-grabbing performance in Paris in 1981, which was covered with enthusiasm by the local press. Not long before that, Mecano released two EPs within a year, followed by a pair of singles, all on the newly established Torso Records, and then chose to disband for the first of many times along what has ultimately amounted into an enduring course. A smaller version of Mecano’s original lineup – minus Lebbink, the Paradiso club bouncer – gathered for the band’s second round of activity which resulted in the 1983 album «Autoportrait.» Polak’s early collaborator Kooyman contributed to a couple of the album’s songs. Years later, or more recently, when the band had fallen into an extended hiatus, Tejo Bolten’s growing frustration, fueled by a sense that Mecano had left their artistic task unfinished, brought him and Polak together for 2005’s «Snake Tales For Dragon» album. Mecano presented it along with older material in Athens the following year at the capital’s long-running annual Rockwave Festival. Tejo Bolten says he was jolted into restarting Mecano following the murder of the Dutch film director Theo van Gogh in 2004 by a radical Islamist who had felt offended by the artist’s stance. According to the band, its new album «Those Revolutionary Days» was conceived as «the scenario for nostalgia enlightened with a modern vision.» Local band Night On Earth, which released a debut album, a double CD, on Ektopia, a small independent label run by the Athenian venue Small Music Theater, will perform as the opening act for Mecano’s Athens performance. Friday – Gagarin Club, Athens; Saturday – Mylos Club, Thessaloniki.

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