Release Date: Mar 6, 2010
Record label: Acute
In the early 1980s, the college town of Athens, Georgia, became an unlikely hotbed for homegrown American new wave and post-punk. Essentially splitting the difference between the sounds produced by the leading lights of the Athens scene of their day—the B-52s and Pylon—the Method Actors have long been relegated to footnote status, but the release of the compilation album This Is Still It just might change that. There’s a simple reason why: it’s quite simply one of the best compilations devoted to a single ‘80s post-punk band assembled in the past decade.
The Method Actors thrived in the 1980s in Athens, Ga., in the same scene that gave rise to R.E.M., the B-52's, Pylon, Love Tractor, and many more. This was the Athens shrouded in tangles of wild kudzu and the kind of homey eccentricity on display in the great rock-doc Athens, Ga.-Inside/Out, in which pretty much everyone and everything seems weird in some way. In the liner notes to this great new reissue CD, Method Actors guitarist Vic Varney talks about Athens as an inviting little town and calls Ricky Wilson from the B-52's his "favorite rock and roll guitar player.
This Is Still It distills the abundant 1980-1981 output of Athens, GA’s Method Actors, during this phase guitarist/vocalist Vic Varney (a permanent member) and drummer/vocalist David Gamble (who was out by the end of 1982). Sonic contemporaries of fellow Athenians Pylon, who were managed for a stretch by Varney, and to a slightly lesser extent the B-52's, the band was nonetheless unique for having two members and creating such a vigorous, romping, oddball attack between the instruments and voices that basslines were not missed. Several of the songs here are top-tier extrovert post-punk, neatly organized threshings as invigorating as any material from Mission of Burma or their farther-flung counterparts.
Who the hell are the Method Actors? Well, they were a two-piece (later swelling to a four-piece) and were one of the first - and least remembered - bands to emerge from the Athens scene that also spawned Pylon, the B-52s and R.E.M. This retrospective, This Is Still It collects material from their early singles and first album in a loosely chronological order - and, if there's one thing that permeates this collection, it's the sense of creative energy which so often accompanies the early days of a burgeoning 'scene'. Indeed, the first impression of the two-piece is the the spartan nature of their setup.
The joy of discovering a band you didn't even know existed is one of the finer pleasures of being a dedicated music fan. Barely known cult acts -- from shimmery British guitar rock like Josef K to unheralded folkies such as Vashti Bunyan -- have all been newly canonized by the response to exquisitely curated reissues and compilations. This Is Still It, a career summation of Athens, Ga.'s the Method Actors, handily performs the same kind of career rejuvenation that the previously mentioned artists have enjoyed.
An early-'80s Athens, GA band that never got the level of attention bestowed upon even the scene's second-tier commercial contemporaries (Pylon, The Love Tractors), The Method Actors were a flat-out terrific post-punk band, with a stentorian push-pull sound as equally indebted to Television as Gang of Four. Their records have aged remarkably well, as evidenced on this terrific compilation that culls pretty much everything the band did during their 1980-81 prolific peak. Hell, R.E.M.'s Peter Buck claims in the record's liner notes, written with the erudition and enthusiasm as only one who lived through the scene could've, "I must have seen them play 100 times." .
One-time peers of REM are exhumed, and still sound remarkably fresh. Mike Diver 2010 “A band that I must have seen play 100 times,” is one description of Athens’ The Method Actors, courtesy of REM’s Peter Buck. Another, from the same man and one-time peer of these wiry, fidgety and itchy, but perfectly pop-savvy, post-punk-informed musicians: “They had it all, [and] amount to a kind of secret history of the Athens scene”.