Great Music in Action
Archie Powell and the Exports are a band twenty years late. Make no mistake: They’d sound perfect sandwiched between Better than Ezra and Green Day during a mid-day rock block on your favorite alternative station. In 1995. The heaviness of the decade had passed–imploded, actually–when Kurt Cobain did. The times shifted becoming Less Alice in Chains, and more Weezer. Bands were expressing the same teenage alienation and awkwardness as they ever did, but now minor keys gave way to major, with a quirky wink. Song lyrics about drugs, aimlessness and failure were matched with upbeat, ironically celebratory sweetness. “Lump” sat alone on a boggy marsh, and we all danced.
Archie Powell engages the same guitar-pop sensibility crossed with tales of woe on his second album with the Exports, Great Ideas in Action. The album title is perhaps a bit misleading as most songs have more to do with inaction, fatalism, and lives wrecked in a myriad ways, including pills and booze (“My problem is I just can’t win / Your problem is you’re soaked in gin”). A quick glance at the song titles–“Crazy Pills,” “Shooting Spree,” “You Might Be Cruel (Or I Might Be Dumb)”–doesn’t offer much hope. Luckily, the album is not nearly as depressing as it sounds, thanks to the enthusiasm of the Exports, and their refusal to let life get them down. Although few songs dare to waver from a 4/4, upbeat tempo, or verse-chorus-verse structure, it’s worked for decades of pop music, and Archie Powell and the Exports put these standard assets to good use.
The album’s highlights are those that push the band’s boundaries–the extra snark on “Bend Over Backwards,” the hint of country heart in “You Might Be Cruel,” the almost self-actualization in “All the Same,” or the blink-and-you-might-miss-it Pixies homage of the title track. These tracks portend an evolving evolving artist. While Archie Powell and the Exports are a ringer for fun side of 90’s alternative, it seems this band has a few more tricks up their sleeve.