I’m merely assuming here, really, but it’s my presumption that a youngster growing up predisposed to keys — be it a) an instrument they were driven to understand by an assertive parent who, as well, was grandfathered into the ivory tickling scene by their own parents, to b) a noisemaker they decided to pick up one day for something as unassuming as, say, church band — probably imagined that the recognized height of their talent, the holy summit of where the fruits of their labor would guide them, would be head organmaster at a ballpark not unlike Wrigley. I mean where else — kindly skipping over Elton John and like kin — do keyboard swamis get to bust out rockin’ organ solos on a near nightly basis (when baseball season is active, of course)?
Thank god, then, for bands like Archie Powell & The Exports, who prove on their new one that an organist’s true home isn’t at a half-witted baseball game, but on stage, under the lights, as one piece of a totally wacky foursome that just blows through and around a room with remarkably wild uproar.
After awhile, I found I’d recruited “Crazy Pills” and “All the Same” to something akin to a permanent repeat list. I was, at least, listening to both tunes way more than the rest of the album. And I have to think it’s the keys, which just soar on these tracks in particular, that greatly influenced my persistent jaunts from track two to track eight, back to two and so on. Archie even reserved some room — albeit brief, but I’ll take it — for a mini keys solo on “All the Same.”
Stepping away, I’ve noticed that a fair amount of the music I’ve been into lately has some kind of a keyboard situation. Two of the three bands I went to see Saturday at Saki’s Record Store Day in-stores — Bare Mutants and The Runnies — use ’em effectively. As do Outer Minds. As do Grandeurs. As do Hollows, which I wrote about a few days ago in this space.
In my head, keys might be the new violin. It’s the latest instrument with a sense of, you know, quirk, that I seem to really respond to and like. I’m positively delighted to see bands I’m not yet familiar with setting up keys and stand in a room.
What distinguishes Archie Powell for me is how heavily dependent they can be on keys; you get a sense of that culture on Great Ideas in Action. You also see it at their live show, which, though experienced by me just once, is a happening perhaps best described as an event that oscillates somewhere between two poles: ruckus party and barbaric disorder.
I’m relatively new to Archie Powell, but think I’ve realized in my time with them that the guys have attained commendable success. Their early March show at Township was packed, and after a release party at Subterranean this week, they’re embarking on a month-long tour of the U.S. — engagements in Canada, too — armed with their blaring and bold new album.
I write this, really, because the finale on Great Ideas in Action, “Only So Much You Can Do,” is like open letter by Archie Powell intended for bands that aren’t cutting it. What I can’t decide is whether its words — you need time to release, you need more skinny jeans, you need massive machines, you need internet schemes, you need some kind of plan, you need work on the band, you need merch for the stand, you need help with your brand… — are to be read as a source of encouragement — an imparting of wisdom from a band that seems to be working hard to make it — or as something analogous to underlying sneer.
Whichever the case, I’ll allow Archie and his Exports to act as stand-ins for a king addressing his flock, as speaker box from some heightened platform, because of an album as aggressively boss as this one. They’re confident and in control. I’d like to think, you know, that what they’ve put together on Great Ideas in Action — loud hooks, mostly, and offensively enthusiastic catch — is the agent that propels them even further along an already elevated track.
- The Chicago-based Archie Powell & The Exports is: Archie Powell (vox, guitar), Ryan Lynch (keys), Adam Melberth (bass, vox) and RJ Schillaci (drums). | Facebook
- Stream (or download free) “Crazy Pills” and another one, “Metronome.” The rest, I’d imagine, can be streamed on or by release day. | Bandcamp
- Archie Powell formally releases Great Ideas in Action to Chicago at Subterranean on Friday. Support: Panther Style, Sandman Viper Command, Wally Dogger. Ten bucks. | Tickets
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