Album Reviews: An Army of Shapes Between Wars by Action ActionSaddled with the tagline "Get ready for the next New Wave masterpiece" on its pre-release marketing materials, the latest album from Action Action pretty effortlessly pigeonholes itself. And that is unfortunate, because while there's moody, arty neo-New Wave music on at least half of this album, the other half is full of classic melodies, within which the baby steps of mid-period Beatles and early Elvis Costello can be heard.
The band's knack for catchy melodies in a classic vein, first displayed in the chorus to track two, "Chemical Frustration," pops up throughout the album, particularly on the Armed Forces sounds of "Don't Shoot the Messenger" and the bald "Strawberry Fields" reference at the start of "What Temperature Does Air Freeze At?" But the band's major shortcoming, on "Chemical Frustration" and elsewhere, is a heavy reliance upon undercooked keyboard lines. A nearly two-minute interlude at the end of "Sleep Paralysis" offers a basic electronic drumbeat with a noodling keyboard over it. It's a throwaway track, and it's kind of fun. But it unfortunately speaks to much of what's heard on this album -- uninspired song structures with the quirky hook of a front-and-center retro keyboard.
As is so often the case in this genre, singer (and songwriter) Thomas Kluepfel's vocals are so affected that listeners unfamiliar with the band may think he has a British accent. It's a telling sign that Action Action is still a little too caught up on the dramatic trappings of new wave for its own good. -- Cory O'Malley