If you're one of the 5,659 people who follow the Mekons on Facebook, your feed has been filled of late with pictures that look more like a group of old friends getting together for a weekend getaway than a venerated punk band preparing to head out on tour.

Whatever their look, that group will soon be here, playing at Boot & Saddle on Monday, plus other weekend shows in Harrisburg and Rehoboth.

In their 38 years of existence, tidily packed into Joe Angio's career-spanning documentary, Revenge of the Mekons, they've gone from a group of Leeds art-school students shouting political provocations over dissonant guitars to wry country-rockers crooning songs of dissolution and loss.

Now, they're an eight-person collective with members scattered from London to Los Angeles. One thing they've never been is stars, which might just be the secret to their long-term success.

"We're not doing this to make a living," says Sally Timms, an angelic voice and earthy presence with the Mekons for nearly 30 years. She now works as a Chicago paralegal. "If we were just insisting that people had to to be available all the time, it would fall apart pretty fast."

"Destroy your safe and happy lives, before it is too late," Jon Langford sang on "Memphis, Egypt," the 1989 single that might have been, but wasn't, the Mekons' commercial breakthrough. Two-and-a-half decades later, Langford is settled in Chicago with a wife and two children. He plays in several other bands, including the Waco Brothers, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, and Wee Hairy Beasties. But he mostly makes his living as a painter whose subjects frequently include musicians swindled by the music industry.

"We had a couple of slow years of trying to play the game and be good little soldiers," Langford says, "but it just didn't work out at all. Then we realized, 'All right, that's not for us. Don't worry about it. Do something else.' "

That "something else" includes 18 albums, collaborations with author Kathy Acker and video artist Vito Acconci, and a gallery show, called "Mekons United," which brought together music, painting, and a "collaborative novel-in-progress" called Living in Sin.

The band's albums may not sell a lot, but their fans remain a dedicated, even obsessive, lot. Neither age nor the industry's implosion has made much of a dent, Timms says: "We're in this weird position where nothing has changed. It's exactly like it was when I first came here in the 1980s. We're almost unaffected by the music business' ebbs and flows."

Being spread across two continents has made the Mekons more of a logistical challenge. But for their next album, Mekonception, they've found a solution: Record the entire thing live, in a single take, specifically on July 23, at Brooklyn's Jalopy Theater. They'll play into a single microphone, with no opportunity to remix or overdub.

Langford explains: "Why should an album take longer to record than it does to listen to?"

As of last week, he said, the band had only the beginnings of ideas for songs. By next Thursday night, the album will be finished.

"I like the fact that we've committed to making an album in a certain way before we've written any songs or even seen each other," Langford says. "It's like, 'Well, now we're in a pickle. We'll have to sort this out.' "

This approach was born in part out of the difficulties of convening the entire band. When the Mekons planned a tour of Scotland last year, Timms says, "Half the band said they couldn't come, then one of them showed up with a month to go, and the other one showed up unannounced halfway through the tour."

But it's also, Langford explains, because the band was founded on the principle that the way they did things was at least as important as what they did. "The ideas behind it are not just about making music," Timms says. It's about something else."

Langford says the audience shouldn't expect the Mekons to play their new material at the Boot & Saddle on Monday: "It's more interesting to keep it all until the last minute."

If that means Mekonception ends up sounding rough around the edges, that's fine with Langford. "There's really no need," he says, "for another band that sounds pleasant."



The Mekons

8 p.m. Monday at the Boot & Saddle, 1131 S. Broad St.

Tickets: $20. Information: 215-639-4528 or www.bootandsaddlephilly.com.

Also: 9 p.m. Friday at Herr Street Stage, Harrisburg. Tickets: $15. Information: 717-412-4342 or www.harrisburgarts.com. And 10 p.m. Saturday at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, Rehoboth, Del. Admission: Free. Information: 302-226-2739 or www.dogfish.com.