Action Strasse – American Gas Jive

Action Strasse
American Gas Jive

Pop and garage rock tie the knot on Action Strasse’s debut, American Gas Jive. This lean album keeps a low profile: The song writing is simple, the music stripped down, and the musicians play with a poker face. In fact, if the music weren’t so friendly, one might think Action Strasse is a little dry. But they are not.

What they are is mature. The guys in this Indiana 4 piece have done time in a clump of other bands, most notably The Lemonheads and hardcore act Majhas. The band members’ travels have lead them now to a tidy, basic sound void of any need to experiment or fool around.

But when you trim all the fat, you lose a little taste. American Gas Jive sacrifices the element of surprise, the gems of spontaneity. But no one’s complaining.

Action Strasse play garage pop. It’s rooted garage rock with traces of punk that’s oh so pop friendly. Guitars buzz in a warm mid-range tone, piecing out simple chord progressions borrowed from the old pop standards. Drums and bass play the straight man, working the timing, making it run. The vocal delivery is equally modest, shirking loud/soft dynamics and reserving range. The voice, belonging to Vess von Ruhtenberg, sounds pretty unimpressive on the whole, but it works thanks to some dry wit, honesty, and good timing. Song themes focus on people, relationships, and the occasional politicking. These are solid performances all around.

“Impatient Love” offers no frills and no edge but is charmingly effective as a pop song. It stands out for the honest chorus line, “Please make it home tonight / without a clown in tow / do not fuck anyone”. Upping the tempo, “Kids in a Hurry” frees up the band’s punk influences and tosses in a few guitar licks between lines like, “Kids in a hurry to grow up / little babies crying and daddy’s on crack / they’re just kids, and they’ve wasted all their lives to grow up”. And the album’s purest stab at garage rock, “American Gas Jive”, is straight ahead rock dispensed with a driving tempo.

American Gas Jive is a consistent album with a persistent sound. It’s all stripped down, simple, and familiar. Action Strasse make good use of their time. But their efficiency and maturity could bore as easily as satisfy. Some may find the band’s profile too low. But if American alternative rock couched in garage and pop traditions sounds good, then listen to this.