Posted by AndrewI admit it. I’ve fallen for all of the technological advances and studio tomfoolery that is so common in rock music today. That guy with his Macbook on stage who looks like he’s not really doing much? His tunes ain’t bad. So I feel a tinge of guilt when I think of my three-chord loving, AF Records-devoted rebellious high school self and what he would think of my current state of open-mindedness. But growing up does that to you. While simultaneously moving forward into maturity, you always want to recreate the days of youth and ignorance. So that’s probably why I appreciate Archie Powell and the Exports debut LP Skip Work so much.
From the title alone you can get a sense of the anarchic humor that makes itself apparent in the Exports’ work. The record starts with "Milkman Blues," rather akin to "Welcome to the Working Week" not only in terms of brevity, but in the sound that evokes a young but already mature Elvis Costello. "Fighting Words" provides CCR riffage backing telephoned vocals and a chorus that gives Archie the courage to cut through the social bullshit you wish you could do yourself. Song titles like "Moving to the City," "Piggy Bank Blues" and "Down and Out" paint a musical landscape originally composed by the Westerbergs and Springsteens out there, but it’s by no means nostalgic. Although some tracks off of The Replacements' Pleased to Meet Me may ring in your ears, Archie certainly has a voice of his own. "All Tuckered Out" laments the perils of creativity: “I don’t ever wanna have to dance for you and I don’t wanna have to fake it anymore / I don’t wanna have to sing again and I don’t wanna have to try.” I’m still trying to figure out if "Mattson is a Flake" is paying homage to ELO or Wire. Either way, it’s certainly not Mattson, who although is not an entirely bad guy, just isn’t as reliable as the music the Exports are putting out. Album closer "The Darndest Things" is as appropriate an ending to an album that one could ask for. A sing-a-long chorus, honky-tonk swagger and the clinking bottles culminate an already classic-sounding record.
Everything artists can do on their own with technology today, including writing a full album on an iPad, is incredible. But it says something great that a four piece band can still make minimal rock and roll that sounds so full and catchy. And in case you didn’t get the word, these guys become even more raucous and relevant live. Start the year off right with two chances to catch the Exports in Chicago in January. They’ll be headlining at Lincoln Hall Thursday the 6th with Milano and Photographers. After that, stop by Quenchers on Friday the 14th when they open for Devon Kay and the Solutions. Skip Work is currently streaming on their Bandcamp.
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