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Method Actors - This Is Still It

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Artist: Method Actors

Album: This Is Still It

Label: Acute

Review date: May. 12, 2010

Believe (some of) the hype. There’s not much to do there but drink and make music, but Athens, Ga., does go through cycles as an industrial-strength crucible for new musical ideas. Most of the product of the uniquely Athenian proximity and cooperation never rises above the local level, and one could spend several lifetimes digging through the archives, finding bold, one-of-a-kind gems amid the intriguing throwaways.

The Method Actors — guitarist Vic Varney and drummer David Gamble — dug out an “important” niche for themselves in the tightly knit post-punk scene of late 1970s and early ‘80s Athens, before two-person rock bands were something one saw with any frequency, and well before R.E.M. blew up. They were more warm and direct than Stipe and Co., more playful and less urgent than Pylon, and mind-blowingly precise overplayers, aces at overcompensating for their understaffed lineup. Even now, after many of their contemporaries have been canonized, they are not clearly remembered. This anthology, comprising scattered 7” and 10” records, gives no clue as to why they aren’t more of a staple.

To be fair, the Method Actors were luckier than they could have possibly expected. Varney’s work as a manager for Pylon gave them an on-ramp to the New York punk scene, where their catchy festivity proved a nice contrast to the homebrewed nihilism then in fashion. They made an unlikely fan of a British A&R guy. They nailed a recording session, which became the This Is It EP, through an agonizing hangover. So, weep not for the Method Actors.

Just thrill to how rock music this relentlessly complex and irregular (“No Condition”), this shamelessly, gloriously over-the-top (“Do the Method,” a distant cousin to the speedier version of “Radio Free Europe” and the fellas’ own would’ve-been dance craze), this stylistically reckless (“Bleeding,” which almost sounds like a completely derailed club cut) and this gleefully repetitive and obnoxious (“Rang-a-Tang”) can still sound so anthemic and galvanizing. They may have opened for Pylon and the Police and seen the first B-52s gig in New York, but Varney’s shrill, unhinged vocals and Gamble’s aggressive, showy drumming weren’t just an “important” “missing link.” They were something genuinely unique, and are a rush to unearth.

By Emerson Dameron

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