As unfair as it is to characterize a year in music, especially when it’s only March, the year so far for me has been one filled with fantastic song-oriented bands who should be on the radio. These are musicians who write absolute gems of pop and/or rock, whose songs would no doubt work their right way into America’s brains if they were given a chance by the corporate radio powers that be. Bands like Creeper Lagoon, California Oranges, Guided By Voices and Actionslacks, whose third album The Scene’s Out of Sight is filled with delightful pop songs of the slightly punkish variety.
This California-based band has been slowly working their way up the ladder of “indie” recognition over the last five years or so; their latest album, produced by J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines) deserves to push its way into the CD players of middle America and take the band up yet another level, as its filled with high-quality melodies and guitar work, plus lyrics that manage to be both funny and sad, innocuous and moving.
From the opening title track on, the musical tone of the album is upbeat and snappy. For the most part the songs are energetic rockers, yet there’s some pretty ballads and one relaxed, jazzy jaunt to keep things diverse. Actionslacks will win you over with every killer hook and can’t forget-it melody, yet they wouldn’t have as big an impact if their lyrics were empty or sophomoric. Lead singer/guitarist Tim Scanlin’s lyrics generally deal with love, but strike a continual balance between a dreamer’s optimism and lonely-boy sense of regret.
The tone of the album is hopeful and up, even when Scanlin is singing about heartbreak, loneliness and longing, as he is on every track except for a few, like a story-song about the celebrity built around the boxer John L. Sullivan. Though the promotional materials don’t indicate that it’s been chosen as such, the should-be-a-hit single here is “The Sun in St. Tropez”, where a high-school outcast imagines a future where the jocks and bullies are working lowly service jobs while the un-cool are relaxing on the beach and “rolling in piles of cash”. It’s what summer anthems should be like, a power-pop pick-me-up for the underdog.
At this point in their career, Actionslacks themselves might still fit into that all-too-crowded category of “unfairly overlooked”, but they shouldn’t be for much longer, especially after people start hearing The Scene’s Out of Sight and spreading the word.