THEY were there to see punk’s original enfant terrible – they left talking about his rightful heir and possibly the most influential musician we’ve witnessed since the ’70s.

It’s rare these days a support act is granted the luxury of a full auditorium, but such is the growing reputation of Dublin’s MERYL STREEK, that’s exactly what greeted him in London earlier this month when he opened for John Lydon’s PiL as part of their, ‘End of World’ UK tour.

“Nearly every night on that tour I had a packed venue on the first song,” he explained.

“It wasn’t what I expected to be honest, but yeah, I’m starting to get a little shocked at the response of the first album and gigs. It took a while because I’m just staying within my own little bubble of keeping busy. But yes, every day is surreal to me while doing this.”

Streek continues to enhance his reputation on the back of last year’s ‘796’ album and his livewire performances. The album is a raw, brutal, uncompromising affair, and its turned social commentary into an art form.  

It’s what the world of music has been crying out for, but is there a danger Streek may become a focal point, a mouthpiece for a generation, the likes we haven’t seen since Joe Strummer, who opened our minds to so many topics: Nicaragua, Federico García Lorca, The Sandinistas, Chile, Cuba, and many more. Are his shoulders broad enough to accept the challenge?

“Even being in the same sentence as the name Joe Strummer is insane to me,” he said.

“But I don’t think about it like that. If people wanna listen to what I’ve got to say then I’m truly honoured, and if they don’t, fuck them. Who knows where this will go, but my shoulders have been doing just fine thus far. 

“I mean this project is only just over a year old on technical terms and I’ve already ticked off most of my lifetime goals in music. If it was to end tomorrow, I’d be happy with what I’ve accomplished, and also what the fans have helped me accomplish. There’s a pretty solid following for Meryl Streek and they’re the reason I am where I am right now so I can’t take all the credit. But for an album not even a year old I think we’ve done pretty good so far, and I’m only getting started. I’ve a new album I’m finishing at the moment, and it’ll be out early next year.”

There’s no escaping the fact ‘796’ is a tough listen, but therein lies its strength. Music should challenge, educate, inform, even if the subject matter makes for an uncomfortable experience, as evidenced by the opening track, ‘The Start,’ along with ‘Educated Mates,’ ‘796’ – the unearthing of the bodies of 796 children – and the harrowing, but once more superbly covered, ‘No Justice,’ a true story of yet another young life brought to a premature end.

“The albums not for the weak hearted, so ‘The Start’ was always going to be the test. Never too late to turn back and I’m sure people definitely have switched off by then.

“With ‘Educated Mates,’ in Ireland we’ve now for landlords wedging six people into a single room in bunk beds. That’s what this song is highlighting the absolute audacity of this shit. Other landlords rent the room Monday to Friday and ask them to leave on weekends so they can ‘Airbnb’ it. Then you can come back on the Monday again. It’s absolutely sickening. 

796, it’s ‘happy upbeat’ but probably the most real on the entire album. Molly Vulpyne is guest vocals on this, and she nails her parts. 

“And ‘No Justice?’ Well, it’s a now very common thing to happen in Ireland. Gangs and drugs are rampant and it’s the younger kids getting sucked into this world unfortunately. Mostly from working class poverty areas but it’s sad. ‘No Justice’ is about a real case and a pretty harrowing one at that.”

There’s topics on ‘796’ I knew precious little about – but I’ve gone out of my way to discover more. I won’t be the only one to have done that, but I wonder if Meryl Streek has been surprised by how many people have actually got his music.

“Of course. But I also do this for the people who don’t get it. They’re the ones who give me the drive and rage to keep doing it. Failed bitter musicians are the reason I do this too. I find them fascinating, judging others online at something they failed at (many) times over.

“The ones that get it are the reason I’m doing it as much as I am, without them I wouldn’t exist. I’ve nothing but love for anyone who clicks a video and listens.”

And the rage, the intensity? Is it possible to keep that up, not only on the record, but in the live arena too?

“It’s not intensity, it’s all natural. And my life isn’t changing anytime soon. So yes.”


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