Method ActorsRhythms of You
Released 1981 on Armageddon
Reviewed by Lugia, 26/08/2004ce
Armageddon AEP 12005. Recorded/released 1981.
3) Dancing Underneath
1) No Condition
4) My Time
How stripped down can "stripped down" get before it's too much? Well, the Method Actors get about as close as it gets. Just two guys here...David Gamble and Vic Varney...and nothing in evidence other than a guitar and drums. That's it. Nothing else.
But at the same time, there's one hellacious groove coming from this stripped-down-to-near-nothing thing.
Contemporaries of the same Athens, GA scene that spawned The B-52s, REM, Pylon, and so on, one immediately hears certain traits to the Method Actors' music that appear like a common vocabulary...the quirky spoken/sung vocals, the jangly and angular Mosrite-type guitar sounds, and such. But there's definitely an effort here to get a propulsive groove going, and the duo more than manage that on this 10" mini-LP.
Side A is sort of a bookend affair. In the middle is the short quirk-bit "Privilege"...but this is sandwiched between two monster danceclub shakers. "Distortion" jumps back and forth between a NEU!-like drone and a classic Athens jump-and-jangle shouter. And "Dancing Underneath" is just nuts...a total rave-up of a track that is more infectious than Ebola! Again, the Athens-isms are very standout, but while a lot of these other bands might twist things around and change them up, Method Actors just keep right on hammering away on the jangle, shouting "Dancing underneaath...oohhh! Yeaaahh!" like a deranged Krautrock-cum-beerjoint loop. People incapable of dancing to this need to seek therapy.
Side B...ahhh, is that "6060-842"? Nope. It's "No Condition". Sounds like the B's track, sure, but the vocals that start off "Ahhm so tii-iired/I can't even tell..." give it away. Doesn't SOUND tired, though...more of the same twist-n-frug we ended the other side with. FINALLY, we slow down with "She", which moves around in this slow, smouldering Southern twang-groove as we hear a vague story about...well, "she", who's making our storyteller "...get drastic!" "You" is another quirky bit, with a hint of pre-Sonic Youth-style guitar squawp and howl along with the jangly-funky propulsion and fragmenty vocals. And closing us out is "My Time", another slice of signature Athens-ism, with odd change-ups and shouted, ferverous vocals..."I'd love to go nowhere with you-uu!!". Only maybe two minutes of this...but whoever said you needed loads of time to make great rock-n-roll, right?
While it was REM and The B52s who put Athens on the map in the eyes of nearly all the world, a few of these other acts did get around the Southeast and up to the bright lights of NYC in their day, Method Actors being among them. And listening back to this mini-LP well over 20 years later, one really does puzzle a bit over whether or not some of what's in here didn't creep into others' later efforts. Certainly, they're even more of a codification of the "Athens Sound" than the more commercially-successful outfits. But there's a little more here than just that...their economic, stripped-down sound, for example, which even in the studio saw little in the way of embellishment; in a few places, they appear to have doubled some vocals, or added a guitar overdub, but by and large this is what Method Actors sounded like live...this, I know from experience. No pretense, no overproduction, just a good, well-tuned motor fired up and running for its own sake. And boy, can it run while these two boys shout and testify right alongside!
No, this isn't one for those who like things heavy. But if you want a party record...and a truly shakin' one that people just will NOT know these days and which still sounds Tupperware-fresh, hunting down a copy of this should be on your agenda. Strap on that plastic guitar and shake y'all's groove thang!