Friday, April 25, 2014

Archie Powell & The Exports - Back in Black

Archie Powell & The Exports' first two albums -- 2010's Skip Work and 2012's Great Ideas in Action  -- were among my favourites of their respective years, so the new Back in Black was eagerly anticipated.

I was a little unsure after the first listen since it veers away somewhat from the previously established blueprint, but repeated plays have pretty much assured this record of a similarly exalted status.

"Everything's Fucked" opens with a Powell scream and sets the tone for an album that's more aggressive and ragged than the past two power pop thrillers and bears more of a resemblance to the Chicago quartet's high-energy performances.

"Tattoo on My Brain" is more like the earlier more hook-laden material and reminds me of another favourite modern power pop purveyor: Gentleman Jesse. 

There are more screams and Powell's strained voice sounds so strained that it could give way at any time on the Nirvana-ish "Lean."

"Scary Dream" is heavy and discordant, while the melodic guitar riffs and sing-along chorus of "Holes" are offset by a harsher synthesizer sound.

"Electrocute My Heart" starts quietly and builds, with piano, guitar, synth and drums all playing key roles in pushing things along.

"Rodeo Crush" is softer and more sparse and sticks out from the rest of album.

"I'm Gonna Lose It," a song of lost love and yearning with doo-wop vocals, sounds like a rougher-edged Weezer cut.

The lyrics are more spoken than sung on the dark "Jump Off a Bridge," which comes across as the Butthole Surfers trying to make a dance record.

Just as you shouldn't confuse this album with AC/DC's biggest seller, even though they share the same title, the incomprehensible words and musical chaos of "Mambo No. 9" are a clear indication that it's definitely not Lou Bega's claim to fame.

Back in Black ends with the five-minute "Everything's Cool," a mid-tempo, melodic pop-rock number that shows Archie Powell & The Exports are still willing and able to return to their roots.

The intent of the group and producer Jonathan Alvin (Surfer Blood) was to capture the sound and spirit of a live performance. They achieved it, and I recommend that you see their great ideas in action for yourself if Archie Powell & The Exports play anywhere near you.

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