Action Figures are one of those slightly punky
guitar-pop bands whose merits are hard to describe in terms that convey just
how enjoyable they are. Harking back to the '70s heyday of artful yet
unpretentious twang-riffs, scruffy and ebullient vocals, and simple but
stirring vocal harmonies (a la Raspberries, Dwight Tilley
Band), this album also features rough-edged '90s-indie production.
It's a distinctly American sound, though the early Rolling
Stones at their poppiest are a touchstone, as the closing cover
of"Dandelion" on Little Citizens shows (the Lauraville EP has covers of the Bee
Gees and the Snips)
"Little Citizens" is the second
release from Action Figures, a Fairfax, Virginia band. A fun
collection of hard edged pop, this should be a favorite of college and
ultra-alternative radio stations. There is a definite 60's and 70's rock
influence on most of the cuts here, often times having you playing the
Among the modern influences cited in the bio for Action Figures, the most noticeable in the music are the surround sound feel of Dramarama and the rawness of Let's Active. The guitar and bass of Jim Waters and Jeff Smith are the driving forces behind the songs here, and more often then not take us on a swirling ride from 60's psychedelia to 90's hard garage grunge. However, there are times when, unfortunately, the guitar production overpowers Chris Piller on vocals.
The disc opens with "Lauraville", a nice pop dittie with guitar work similar to old REM. "Caroline" and"She's Got A Right" are where the Dramarama influence are heard the most, with the whining guitar and muted harmonies, two definite radio ready cuts. "Super Heroine" is a clear cut Stones rip, which will have you swearing it's Keith Richards guitar screaming from your speakers. "Tough With Love" and "Tree" are two other great cuts, with vocals and harmonies that could easily pass for Daltry and The Who. And if the Stones influence wasn't already evident, they close the disc with a hot, 90's version of "Dandelion".
Top Cuts: Super Heroine, She's Got A Right, Dandelion, Tough With Love
Action Figures "Little
Citizens" eggBERT Records: They unearth all the pleasant and vibrant
sides of rock and roll's past while never taking their eyes off the 90's route.
It's a tough task to hold true verities sprung from 6 and 12 string heroes when
just about every angle has been covered, still these diehards of pop's
songcraft understand how to aim their axes and write their songs. So by the
time this fine disc has spun its delightful heart out your left with an
aftertaste not unlike the one delivered by Matthew Sweet and
Teenage Fanclub. So, if you haven't guessed already these guys
like the Beatles and Big Star. They also
haven't lost their sense of the garage. It is a nice balancing act which keeps
these hook-filled gems biting. That is, they know how to rock and they are very
catchy. Quick fixes like "Lauraville" and "Reckless Miranda"
actually stand the test of time and grow with repetitive listens as does most
of the album. Besides being able to create wonderful tunes on their own they
also prove to be highly adept interpreters. Their sonic send up of the
Rolling Stones' "Dandelion" is to die for and their
revamping of Dramarama's obscure "She's Got A Right"
proves the American pop dream is still thriving. It's a sweet discovery when
one bears such spirited rock and roll taking all the right examples and forging
its own path. With this album the kids understand and they are alright.
Action Figures - Little Citizens 1995 eggBERT , 12 Tracks / 47 Minutes Picks: Lauraville, She's Got A Right, Tough With Love, Animal Pictures, Dandelion Not Unlike: The Replacements meet the dB's and Dreams So Real Comments: The late 80s indie guitar scene is back!!! Remember when the college radio waves were inundated with guitar oriented pop out of theR.E.M. school, Well, apparently so do Washington D.C.'s Action Figures, as aptly demonstrated on their second album, Little Citizens. Generous helpings of hard edged pop abound on this disc, with enough dreamy underpinnings to satisfy those melodic cravings we all have. Try to imagine Paul Westerberg without the vices crossed with a well imbibed Scott Miller, and you've pretty much got the aural image of lead vocalist Chris Piller, whose voice complements the dense, hooked filled arrangements of the 12 songs on the album. My favorite tracks are lauraville, which has a chorus so catchy you won't lose it all day (and all of the night), She's Got A Right which sounds like Cat Stevens' Can't Keep It In on Quaaludes and beer (O.K. granted this is a lethal combination, hut not in a metaphoric sense), Tough With Love, which has a wonderful harmony lead vocal enveloping a hardass folky-garage hook, and Animal Pictures, which is driven by an infectious guitar figure. Actually, the Action Figures saved the best for last with their cover of the StonesDandelion. There are two schools of thought regarding cover versions l) that the best cover version is one that is directly reminiscent of the original, or 2) that the best cover version is one where the covering band does the song in their style, making it sound like one of their own. I'm inclined to subscribe to the second school, especially when I like the band. Action Figures seems to agree, as their version of Dandelion is just great, sounding like one of their originals. If you've been yearning to hear an album full of unpretentious 8Os influenced indie pop, then don't miss Iittle Citizens, You'll be glad you didn't. David Bash, Audities