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  Songs on Radio Idaho
Artist: The Actual
Label: Eyeball Records
Length: 13 tracks / 38:47

I’ve never even been to Idaho, but if Songs On Radio Idaho is a fair representation of the music that is actually played over Idaho’s airwaves, I’ll move there in a heartbeat.

The Actual is a three-piece indie rock band with sounds alternating between heavy pop and groove rock in the tradition of Foo Fighters with a little Green Day and modern British rock mixed again.  The vocals of Max Bernstein are slightly nasal, very breathy, and provide the most pleasantly distinctive element of this band.

The first standout of the album is “Cold Inside,” a catchy rock song that was remastered from the band’s  The Red EP.  “Hospitality Girl” is a slow, heavy tune with some clearly Doug Pinnick (King’s X) influenced bass firepower from Jeremy Bonsall.  “I Am an Item” is a fast, brilliant Fooey song with furious drumming from Jeff Keenan and nice guitar fills from Bernstein.  Another good representation of The Actual’s heavy side is “The Shines,” whose dreary chords would have fit perfectly on the Galactic Cowboys’ The Horse That Bud Bought album.  It is also typical of this album’s dominant lyrical theme—that of people either in denial or not in touch with themselves.

There’s a mark on her back from the way that the sun shines.
There’s a plan of attack, a mark of a lack of responses every time she looks at the time
From turning her back from the way that the sun shines.
Songs on Radio Idaho is solid all the way through.  It has a broad appeal, like the Foo Fighters, which makes it easy to enjoy the first time through.  But it’s also interesting enough to still appreciate after many spins.  A great effort from a band that deserves to be played on Radio Idaho, Radio New York, Radio California, etc.
 

Dan Singleton  September 29, 2003

The Actual is a California-based punk/pop trio that would be the end result if someone took Monty Colvin, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Cheap Trick, and Jane's Addiction, put them into a blender, mixed them up, and then made them record an album together--with an occasional dash of King's X-style guitars.

Max Bernstein seems to know his range vocally, swinging back and forth from Perry Farrell type chanting/singing to Material Issue/Cheap Trick power pop.  Bernstein is also the lead guitarist and obviously studies Ty Tabor, among others.  Jeremy Bonsall's bass and Jeff Keenan's drums complement his style perfectly.

"The Proof" is a standard-issue, radio-friendly punk song, but with more insightful lyrics.  "Cold Inside" and "A Way Around Me" could be Jane's Addiction tracks,  while "I Am An Item" contains a King's X guitar riff.  "Keep You in a Bottle" is a Green Day/Blink 182-ish number, and "When the Dishes Start to Break" claims its own style, rocking hard while sounding like no one else I can think of.

"Cameron" is a standout, a '50s-style love song updated to a modern sound.  It is the type of song that Cheap Trick should have included on its most recent release.  "Across the Country" is a bitter breakup song, while "Radio Idaho" states the demise of the airwaves, but also relates the fleeting nature of life:

"January, February, March, and April / Just may come and go, like seasons, / Without reasons--just like songs on Radio Idaho."

The Actual is for those who like thoughts behind their sounds and for fans of Foo Fighters, King's X, and Galactic Cowboys.  Another group for my list of "groups that only need to be heard to be successful."

Brian A. Smith  10/22/2003


 

   
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