By Frank Krolicki
"Life is a bitch for me and for all the folks you know," Archie Powell tells us in the first minute of his band's second full-length album Great Ideas in Action. It's a line that's not out of place on the record as a whole, as the frontman and his Exports offer up a set of tunes that mostly focus on how much things suck sometimes, from being unable to find a job to struggling to keep your artistic endeavors going. What makes this band--and record--great, though, is that all of the discontent is delivered in a way that actually makes you feel really damn good. They might be reminding us of all that's not right in the world, but they're doing it while providing a smirk and a shot of adrenaline.
As with 2009's Loose Change EP and 2010's Skip Work LP, the Exports' stock-in-trade here is three-minute amped-up power pop with choruses designed to target, like heat-seeking missiles, the part of the brain that traps a hook in your consciousness and keeps it there for an extended stay. The only difference is that now they're doing it better than before. "Metronome," "Crazy Pills" and "Shooting Spree" make up an opening trio so solid that when I first played the record I feared it might be front-loaded (I found "Crazy Pills" especially grabbing, and it seems the band agrees since they chose the song for the first single and video for the album). But the quality of the material remains high throughout all 11 songs, each featuring a melody distinct enough to prevent it from blurring into the next.
On the edgy, shout-along track "Job Fair," the band tackle the aforementioned problem that too many can related to--finding employment, or even a clear idea of what to do for a living, hard to come by. Another highlight is the equally rocking "Only So Much You Can Do," which closes the record by taking on the trials of being in an indie band with tongue halfway in cheek: "So you say you're onto something and you'd like to see it through, but you're worked to the bone and there's only so much you can do" leads into a laundry list of indie rocker woes, from playing "for next to nothing in a next-to-empty room" to needing "more skinny jeans." Almost all of the other tracks on the record pack the same kind of punch, with only the kind-of-bluesy pop of "You Might be Cruel (or I might be Dumb)" slowing down the pace a bit midway through.
Great Ideas in Action is a consistently fun and entertaining record, and one of the year's releases so far that I've played the most. Those who listen to new music always hoping to discover new or out of the ordinary sounds probably won't be thrilled by it, but I can personally always get behind a straight-ahead rock record from a band that knows how to do it right. And Archie Powell & the Exports have definitely done it right. Hopefully as long as things keep sucking in the world, they'll keep being inspired to make music that makes it suck a bit less.
'Great Ideas in Action' is out on May 1st, and you can currently get "Metronome" and "Crazy Pills" as free downloads on Archie Powell & the Exports' Bandcamp site. You can also take a listen to "Crazy Pills" below and stream the entire album over at AOL Spinner.