This is Still It by The Method Actors will be released on 22 March on Acute Records.
The next time an Oscar-loving luddite regales you with tales of deprivation and loss; all suffered in the name of art and a gold-tinged Kinder Egg toy, pop on This is Still It and relive a time when method actors didn’t pretend. Varney and Gamble may sound like a couple of second-rate chancers but together they raised a strobe-lit, spasmodic riot, with just guitars, drums and vocal chords; deprived of more band members than most and fuelled by the post-teen volcanoes of unrequited loss.
This is Still It showcases the duo’s early recordings, from 1980-1981. If you’re already a fan then this release is, by all accounts, a must; containing early ep material as well as a chunk of their debut long-player Little Figures.
If, like me, you’re new to The Method Actors, then you’ll need some gristle to add to your anti-Oscar bones.
CBGBs may be the classic, new wave, celluloid snap-shot but the breakers quickly hit further south, in Athens, Georgia. The Method Actors emerged alongside The B52s in a scene that eventually spawned REM. Throughout this compilation there are echoes of love-shacked yelps and howls, and the scratched, discordant guitar-tones of the B52s’ Ricky Wilson. But the opening track on This is Still It takes the red carpet all the way back to CBGBs. Do the Method froths and spits with the same head-rush drive and excitement of Television’s See No Evil. And on Commotion Varney’s vocals veer towards the controlled panic usually voiced by David Byrne.
The roll call of potential bastard cousins from across the Atlantic is also impressive. Bleeding is infused with the sparse, sonic suffocation of Joy Division and the whole album trembles with a knock-kneed funk that would make the Gang of Four seek anti-Blyton back-up. Yet somewhere lurks the pop aesthetic that underpinned many a buzzcocked classic. It goes back further.
It could be argued that The Method Actors have studied Beefheart and visited both the playful (Rang-A-Tang) and exotic, discordant landscapes (Pigeons) imagined by Can. There are even hints of the exasperated, angry shouts of Eugene McDaniels.
The key, however, to not pretending is an element of madness and The Method Actors have the periodic table covered. Like Pavement’s Spiral Stairs, Varney is two notes short of a conventional solo, operating – on voice and guitar – in a scale and fluxuating register that would render most musicians unrecordable.
And the hulk of David Gamble is a Dr Bruce Banner-man on drums, who has finally learnt to channel his aggression into a perpetual driving cavalcade of percussion; snare and toms snap and bellow as cymbals crash with measured abandon. For times when the emotions are frayed and all that will do is a dose of nervous tension…well, this
is still it.
For more information visit www.myspace.com/methodactors