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Has bemused cynicism and ennui ever been so fun? Archie Powell & the Exports have made a career of grafting prismatic power pop and sardonic, dark looks at the world outside into guileless songs with hooks galore. Archie Powell makes it look simple; he is incapable of writing an un-danceable tune, whether he turns a jaundiced eye on the culture of self-medication or whipping up a 3 minute heist story. Great Ideas in Action (out May 1, 2012) is the band’s third release of deceptively sophisticated songs. Blink and its killer catchy rock, blink twice and its social commentary that is sad, biting, funny but ultimately incredibly honest. Powell’s writing could easily come from someone twice his age but it never feels studied – his humanity just shines through and demolishes any doubts about where he stands.
It’s not hard to find stories in the news about the thousands of debt-ridden young people who are getting out of college and finding that there is nothing out there for them. While Archie claims he was an art student and knew what he was getting into, he’s written a pretty great protest song for his peers in “Job Fair”, singing “Hey baby, please can you cut some slack? You know I’ll settle up tomorrow if you got my back, I’ve been running out of luck cuz it’s about who you know, and all my resumes are fake and I don’t know where to go.” Some of the subjects of Powell’s songs are swimming in elicit pills – he gives bald depictions but from an obviously empathetic viewpoint. Meantime, keyboards are swirling and unique musical arrangements are charging forward and listeners are carried away but song craft that echoes Elvis Costello pumped with the energy of early Replacements.
The album was produced, engineered and mixed by Justin Perkins (formerly of Yesterday’s Kids, The Obsoletes and Screeching Weasel) at Howl Street Studios and The Mystery Room in Milwaukee during the Fall of 2011, it is set for release on May 1, 2012. The band recorded 14 songs before paring it down to the essential 11 including the title track, which Powell says is a Calvin & Hobbes reference (anyone who can describe the strip in question is entitled to free admission to Exports shows for life.)
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