Act I

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Some indie records are harder to pin down than others -- and then there's Act I by the Act. An astonishingly broad-minded bow-shot of an album, Act I suggests what might have happened if Fee Waybill had produced a battle-of-the-bands between the Ramones and ? and the Mysterians. It has the feel of a loosely constructed concept album, as theatrical as anything the Tubes ever did, but it's never quite clear what the concept is. Lead singer and songwriter Mike Shine keeps things unpredictable throughout the album, for better and for worse. "Hippies don't know much 'bout education," he opines on the opening track "The Last Generation," which is fraught with such drama that it seems it should be the reprise to a show rather than the beginning of one. The concept dissolves quickly into a Standells knockoff ("Catalonia") and the quirky "Self-Sufficient Guy," whose dated riffs and strange sense of expository detail are straight Tubes. Sometimes the Act are so busy being expansive that they forget to be entertaining, as on "Wormhole 61," but there are more hits than misses on this sprawling album. The Act go overboard with siren sound effects and over-dramatic codas, but then, going overboard is what this album's all about. It's not a consistently strong listen, and many of its tracks are re-purposed from their original appearance on 2002's Armageddon Hop, but Act I presents the Act as a band facile in everything from pomp-rock to proto-punk to rockabilly and eager to spastically bleed the distinctions between them.