Actionslacks – Full Upright Position

Full Upright Position

“This Damn Nation” starts off with a galloping drum line and a distant, spacey guitar line. By the time the rest of the band kicks in, the bass has already revealed itself in glory, playing perfectly fitting bass-lines amongst the intertwining drum and guitar pattern. The vocals appear, and the rough yet melodic timbre accents this pop-rock sound perfectly, turning the whole sound into a pointed weapon. I use this metaphor due to the quality of the lyrics: “This Damn Nation” is a biting diatribe about the shallowness of Americans. If it were a poorly written rant, I wouldn’t be interested, but every point he makes is not only legitimate, it rhymes in ABCB form and the syllables fit perfectly. For example: “We’ve got greeting card emotion, cause we can’t express ourselves / I won’t tell you to your face, but I’ll call you on your cell”. The whole song is loaded with quotables like that; I could quote nearly any phrase of the song to display Tim Scanlin’s songwriting prowess. The song is over four minutes long, and yet it feels too short.

In short – “This Damn Nation” is a flawless song. Actionslacks placed it as the second song on the band’s album, Full Upright Position, and from that point on, this album is amazing. (The first track is not bad, but compared to the rest of the album, “33 1/3” is inferior). Yes, those 12 expansive, progressive pop-rock tracks that Actionslacks committed to tape are genuinely inspired. From drums to vocals, from lyrics to art, this album is mind-bending. I’ll bet you’ve never heard ‘mind-bending’ and ‘pop-rock’ in the same thought before, but you better get used to it, ‘cause that’s exactly what this album is.

The most surprising element of Actionslacks’ sound is the lyrics. Tim Scanlin has a unique, enviable perspective on life, and he fleshes it out for the listener. He’s fed up with sex and violence on TV, (“This Damn Nation”), hates men who act like scum towards women (“My Favorite Man”), wishes relationships would try to work things out before instantly breaking up (“Cut Above”), and hopes that future generations will live well (“All You’ll Ever Need to Know”). The last is especially interesting, as it’s written like a letter: “Hello boys and girls, hello posterity / if you can hear my voice, you must still be free.” He goes on to ask them if “Is the place where you stand where you want to be?”, then admonishes them “You’re much too young to be resigned,” then backs up his credibility with “And I’m telling you this now because I know how this life goes.”

When in print, it just doesn’t take on the same effect it does when Scanlin sings it…but isn’t that the mark of good music? The melodies underlie his connotation in these words – they’re not pretentious, lordly decrees but helpful hints from a guy who’s been there and done that. It’s breathtaking to hear “All You’ll Ever Need to Know,” and I hope all of you can hear it someday. The unassuming lines he sings aren’t forced, and they aren’t even loud; it’s like a dialogue between you and Tim Scanlin. It’s simple to imagine him sitting next to me and singing this song – that’s how personal this song is. In fact, many of the songs on this album portray that trait, but this song especially shows it.

The next degree of Actionslacks’ sound is the music itself. This sound is what The Beatles must’ve envisioned the future of rock to be. Guitars lead the sound, but pianos, strings, and other instruments play a significant role in the rocking. It’s not angry-sounding, it’s not screamy, it’s just straight-up rock and roll the way it was envisioned. Semisonic and Third Eye Blind would also be proud of Actionslacks’ rock ideals. The drums are full, and the bass (as explained previously) plays gloriously fitting bass lines. I would explain the sound of the instruments more, but in pop music, it’s not the individual parts that make the sound, it’s the overall feel. Actionslacks are unique and talented on all fronts, which makes the sound unique as a whole.

From spacey rock in “Close to Tears” to all-out pop in “If I’m Not Deceived” to the funky rock of “Simple Life” to even the twangy alt-country of “Keeping Close to You,” Actionslacks conquer your stereo. They have done no wrong on this album (except the first track). This year is shaping up to be an excellent year for power-pop/pop-rock; I hope this trend of brilliant pop albums continues.