Actionslacks' 2004 release Full Upright Position is simultaneously an improvement over its 2001 predecessor The Scene's Out of Sight and a disappointing follow-up to it. The holdover 2002 odds 'n' sods EP Never Never Shake, Baby hinted that the band was poised to make a great leap forward in its sound -- but such a shakeup never materialized. The band has come to realize that its strength and uniqueness come from Tim Scanlin's mode of storytelling, his belief in the utter historical importance of obscure people and minute incidents. But that storytelling is not buttressed by instrumentation that brings it to life. Instead, the musicians, particularly guitarist Chuck Lindo, go through the motions, desiring only to not be in the way. The guitar riffs are only placeholders to keep songs moving, not statements of their own. Fortunately for Actionslacks, Scanlin has written some of his best material on this record, such as the spirited opener "33 1/3" and the pointed-message track "This Damn Nation." His congested nasal affectation remains an acquired taste, but upon getting used to it, one can find the essential heart in his work, particularly in earnest tracks like those two. "My Favorite Man," a smart insight into sons not turning into their fathers, sonically follows in the footsteps of 2001's reverential "John L. Sullivan." Scanlin also appears to flex his muscles for the full-blown epic he seemingly aspires to write, with sprawling tracks like the seven-minute "Close to Tears." That straightforward tune, though, is undeserving of the treatment and feels over-produced, a criticism that coarses through several of the other tracks as well. With "All You'll Ever Need to Know," the band attempts an "I feel your pain and it's gonna be all right" ballad, which only half-succeeds: there's not enough passion or gimmick for it to catch on with a youthful crowd. "Simple Life" is a far better expression of a similar emotion. There are other strong tracks, particularly "Someday Soon," which nearly becomes the epic that "Close to Tears" longed to be; and the affirming closer. Indeed, the very album title is an affirmative statement of purpose: a resolution of looking up, looking forward and around, instead of sleepily navel-gazing. But despite Scanlin's impassioned best efforts, Full Upright Position is yet another aggravatingly flawed Actionslacks record, its uninspired musicianship holding it back from being a power pop essential.
Full Upright Position Review
by Joseph McCombs