Johnny Action Figure

Johnny Action Figure

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First, a clarification: the Johnny Action Figure heard on this 2004 release should not be confused with a Canadian band that used the same name back in the '90s. While the Canadians (who have since changed their name to Ghost of Science) were from Victoria, British Columbia, this band is from Reading, PA (a few hours from Philadelphia). And there are stylistic differences as well; the Canadians have been compared to Radiohead, while Pennsylvania's Johnny Action Figure is essentially emo. This self-titled CD has many of the familiar emo elements, including a bratty vocal style and a combination of punk-pop exuberance and introspective, confessional lyrics. Of course, the word "introspective" was seldom used in connection with punk-pop back in the late '70s; no one accused the Dickies, the Ramones, or Generation X of being introspective -- in those days, introspection was for Joni Mitchell and Janis Ian, not punk rockers. But thanks to bands like Green Day, the Get Up Kids, and blink-182, many listeners have grown accustomed to hearing a lot of punk-pop lyrics that are, in fact, inner-directed. While some emo discs can be hooky, JAF's songs tend to be angular -- the material on this CD is melodic, but definitely in an angular way. And while the album isn't exceptional, it isn't bad either. Those who haven't burned out on emo (which experienced considerable saturation in the late '90s and early 2000s) will hear some potential on tunes like "Cheating Is Risky Business," "Magnesium," and "Blood on the Moon," all of which are among the album's more memorable tracks. JAF's first album is uneven -- some of the tunes hold up better than others -- but all things considered, it's a decent (if derivative and less than distinctive) debut for the Pennsylvania band.

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