30th June | Exchange
In the age of unlimited connectivity, we’ve come to understand that nothing is ever truly dead. Rock & roll has been resuscitated so many times past its presumed expiration date that the very question of its integrity has become clichéd and bands like IDLES have taught us that punk is almost probably immortal. But where does that leave the genres that seem so specifically tied to a certain time and place that their context seems intrinsically fixed to a world we no longer inhabit ? Canada’s ACTORS believe they might have the answer.
Creeping into view to a brooding, minor key pulse, ACTORS wear their 80s synth-wave influence as a proud, supposedly profound uniform in both the metaphorical and literal sense. Leather jackets, chrome studs and blocky shades glint above a decidedly blackened canvas as the bodies that exist beneath jitter to robotic beats with such metronomic precision that images of George Michael’s ‘Faith’ video spring to the forefront of my mind.
There’s an almost cartoony, foreboding atmosphere that swirls around the band, born of the combination of both their sound and their image. Frontman Jason Corbett inhabits this Uncle Fester / Frankenstein’s monster air of stylised spook whilst still striding comfortably into the world of rock & roll swagger, mainly supported by his admittedly charming knack for stage banter.
Sonically, the colours that make up this palette consist of equal parts Q Lazzarus, A-Ha, A Flock of Seagulls and Depeche Mode with Corbett’s decidedly baritone vocal range adding a slightly more individual quirk. There is great separation between the bottom and top end of the frequency spectrum within these compositions, but for me the centre point of the vast majority of these tracks lies in their reverberant and spacious guitar lines.
Shannon Hemmett has clearly done her homework on the vital aspects of 80s synthesis as her work really pins down the backbone of this act’s specific flavour. The band really shine when Hemmett has the opportunity to interject both in her synth-work and vocals with Corbett to add some depth to the top end of their sound. Though there is clear compositional talent present here, it must be noted that without the pillar of their specific genre to lean on, there isn’t much more of a musical personality present.
Corbett is an entertaining and proficient frontman. Hemmett certainly knows how to create that 80s sound. Jahmeel Russel and Adam Fink are clearly competent and tight musicians, but their identity as a whole rests so massively on the acts that they’re inspired by that the whole exercise begins to feel a little redundant.
Ultimately if your life entirely revolves around that late 80s robotic vista or if you’re super-down to see some skilled musicians revive that era then you won’t find a better act to scratch that itch than ACTORS. Though if you’re searching the wilderness like The Bongo Brothers for the new sound you might want to take a detour.
See the video for ‘Slaves’ here: