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Actual - In Stitches

  by Paul Raven

published: 8 / 8 / 2007



Actual - In Stitches
Label: Soft Drive
Format: CD

intro

Catchy four chord rock on debut album from the Actual, which refreshingly free of self-pity and the camp flamboyance of hair-metal comes as a liberating breath of fresh air


I was starting to despair; with the likes of Avril Lavigne and the cartoon punks of MTV gleefully embracing crass commercial appeal on one side, and the coiffured hordes of MySpace wailing in high histrionics on the other, the future has not been looking good for intelligent and accessible guitar music. Which meant listening to 'In Stitches' was a liberating breath of fresh air, once I'd determined that my metaphorical musical canary had not keeled over dead from suffocation during the first few songs. The Actual may actually be some kind of geniuses. Let's get one thing straight – there's nothing new here. Nothing whatsoever. We're talking simple hooky four-chord riffs, breezy little melodic solos, a bouncy pace ... it's a language that last held sway on both sides of the Atlantic in the first half of the 90's, albeit pronounced in very different accents. But the grammar was consistent, and shows up once again on 'In Stitches' ; the crunchy tones of rock music, divorced from the camp flamboyance of hair-metal or the contrived aggression of thrash. Guess what? You can play guitar without having to play the fool! But what the hell can a guitar band write songs about, if you banish spandex vanity and clenched-fist fury from the menu? Looks like you're left with nothing more than real-life experiences of growing up in a small town in a confusing world, doesn't it? And that's what you get – an album of songs that capture the simultaneous bafflement and and hilarity of your late teens. But get this – The Actual don't whine about it! No, not even once! There's a real sense of affirmative acceptance at play, and that's what really makes this album shine. By refusing to play the self-pity card, and being willing to laugh at themselves and life a little bit, the Actual have managed to record something really special between the layers of instruments on In Stitches – and that something is honesty. I don't mean to suggest that I think all the songs are genuinely autobiographical – although they could well be, I suppose. No; what I mean is that the stories have just the right tragicomic feel to make them genuinely resonant with the real world. Sure, there are songs about not getting the girl, but at no point does not getting the girl become some sort of wrist-slashing tragedy of earth-shattering proportions; nor is it reduced to a scene from something on the Cartoon Network channel. In this respect, the album's title is quite apposite; The Actual are acknowledging that life will wound you, but pointing out that the wounds will heal, and that wearing a long face won't hasten the process. I don't know; maybe I've just been starved of catchy rock music with a soft chewy centre for too long. Liking this album isn't going to win me any credibility from my hard rock and heavy metal friends. But you know what? I don't give a damn. It's a genuinely enjoyable album, full of sharp hooks and choruses that you'll be singing along to with a great big grin on your face. If there's any validity left in the idea of pop-edged rock music, The Actual should be massive. Let's hope that, for once, quality and popularity can stand side by side.



Track Listing:-
1 The Pride of the Echelon
2 This Is the Worst Day of My Life (Do You Want to Come Over)
3 September Had a Trigger Finger
4 If You See Her
5 Permanent Kitten
6 Needle Park
7 To All the Plain Janes
8 Between the Bridge and the Chapel
9 Dancing on the Perimeter
10 Sending You a Signal
11 Lindsay Never Gets Lonely
12 Stay in My Rectangle
13 Hospitality Girl



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