The Method Actors - This is Still It - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Method Actors - This is Still It

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2010-03-22

Among the first wave of post-punk bands to emerge from the unlikely scene in Athens, Georgia which formed around a collection of party-going students, artists and weirdoes in the late-70s/early-80s, The Method Actors comprised Vic Varney (guitar/vocals) and David Gamble (drums/vocals).

The cultural milieu from which they sprang also nurtured REM, The B-52s and Pylon, bands who each went on to secure varying degrees of success: stadium and heritage rock immortality for REM, chart success followed by eternal cultdom for The B-52s. Pylon, meanwhile, will always be cherished by a small but gradually growing faction of punk-funk enthusiasts. The Method Actors, on the other hand, are ones of those bands who always find a place at the end of comprehensive lists, i.e. "REM emerged from the Athens, Georgia scene which also included (several bands) and The Method Actors". In short, fame did not await them. But will this compilation of the cream of their two albums and four EPs (the first of which was titled This is It, hence this compilations title) go someway to redressing the balance?

Well, it should do, because the music here is undoubtedly fine, its mixture of post punk, punk-funk, no wave, new wave and mutant disco utterly superlative. But you can't help feeling that the sounds made by The Method Actors are perhaps a little surplus and inessential to 21st century ears. It's not just that this stuff has been relentlessly plundered by every musically literate band over the last decade, although that's a big part of it. Certainly, it's not hard to find plenty of music being made right now which sounds just like songs The Method Actors wrote 30-odd years ago. Listening to the taunt, chiming guitar of opening track 'Do the Method' or the sparse, cranky funk of 'She', you can't help wondering if the post-punk revival's latest cause célèbre, Lonelady, has been taking inspiration from this band.

It's hard to tell for sure, since the other thing that blunts the impact of this music for any serious music fan is that a lot of it sounds very similar to a lot of other music that was being made around the same time. From our privileged, choice-saturated vantage point, with all the reissues and deluxe additions of previously hard to find treasures we can access at the touch of a button, there's just nothing new to discover here, from the nervy jangle that opens 'Do the Method', so redolent of early REM, to the dissonant, choppy dynamics of 'Can't Act' and 'Distortion', which could have come from Pylon, Magazine, Wire, Minutemen, early Siouxsie and the Banshees, early Cure or several other concurrent or almost concurrent acts. Unlike the similarly recently exhumed recordings of Patrick Cowley & Jorge Socarras' Catholic, which felt like discovering a secret thread connecting your favorite 70s and 80s bands, This is Still it feel like an addendum to the text you already have rather than a newly recovered gospel.

That's not say the music here isn't good, because it is. For those to whom such things matter, this compilation helps give a fuller picture of the great splenetic outburst of music, art and fashion that occurred at the end of that otherwise rather dog-eared decade, the 1970s. That said, once you've absorbed the first few tracks here, you will have the measure of The Method Actors' sound. Although later tracks do indulge in the gloss of 80s studio sound, unlike many of their contemporaries, The Method Actors apparently never felt a burning need to spruce up their sound with synths and drum machines. That said, if itchy, minimalist punk-funk is your favorite noise, one listen to This is Still it will send you off to hog's heaven.

Richard Morris

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