The Action Items – Changed My Life EP

The Action Items
Changed My Life EP

Everything about The Action Items is simple. This EP (pressed on a cool 3″ mini-CD, I must mention) came to me in a basic black sleeve with a simple black and white picture on the front. All of the fonts used on the various labels and track listing sheet are very, very basic, with everything typed in all lowercase. There are a few basic pictures scattered, including one of a Hostess truck and another of what may possibly be the cutest girl I’ve ever seen in my life on the mini-CD’s actual plastic protection sleeve.

Matter of fact, everything about The Action Items is simple. The band consists of one man who only goes by Mark. Judging from the note Mark enclosed with this EP, he seems like a really polite and shy guy. The music is really polite, too, ranging from quiet and reflective to jangly and (dare I say) boppy over the course of these four songs. Album opener “Great Big Kiss Off” is the only song with a real ‘band’ feel to it, as Mark’s friend Dave plays ‘real drums’ on the track. The guitar riffs are basic and catchy, and Mark’s voice somewhat recalls Bob Dylan as the vocals flow over the head-bobbing rhythm. The real kickers here, though, are the sweetly out-of-place “ooooohhhhhh” interludes between Mark’s calls for “the great big kiss off” that end the song. “Mediocre” is the truest singer/songwriter tune here, a short acoustic number that manages to be endearing without sounding whiny. Mark bemoans that “Money ain’t magic / It’s just paper and plastic / And it can’t make a shitty feeling into something more” before admitting, “I don’t wanna die mediocre and bored.”

“Don’t Go There Girl” returns to the jangly, upbeat guitar feel of the opening track, albeit this time with a drum machine backing him up. This track sounds like something that would come out of a garage collaboration between Elvis Costello and Guided By Voices. The rhythm guitar is fuzzy and catchy, while the lead piece is accentuated with the cute high-pitched doo-wop-ish backing vocals. The acoustic “Power of Will (Boy Band Ballad)” ends the EP with a folky, reflective piece that takes on a campfire sing-along feel thanks to the multi-tracking on Mark’s voice. The lyrics tell the story of reflections on a relationship brought on by a period of personal growth, and Mark manages to get his point across without seeming melodramatic.

Simple. Simple, simple, simple. None of the four tracks here breaks the three-minute barrier, and I really do believe the tracks were home-recorded and mixed by Mark himself. This EP is really, really cute and endearing – just like a schoolgirl crush. Listening to The Action Items reminded me of sitting in my bedroom as a 14-year-old, trying to word a puppy dog love letter to an unrequited crush. I’m so buying this band’s full-length CD.