ARCHIE POWELL & THE EXPORTS – Loose Change EP
(2009 Download Only)
Despite claims to the contrary, I’m not convinced the August Teens are any closer to releasing their debut record than they were when they formed over three years ago, and Kyle Motor stubbornly refuses to break the Motorz’ extended hiatus. In their absence I was ready to crown Archie Powell & the Exports the new kings of Madison power pop. I was . . . until I found out they moved to Chicago in August. But Loose Change is so good, and such a perfect, shining example of what makes power pop great, that I am more than willing to let them rule from afar.
When the much-loved Box Social found themselves pulled in separate directions and eventually dissolved, guitarist Nick Woods began devoting all of his time to his former side project Direct Hit. Meanwhile lead singer/guitarist Nick Juncunc took drummer Brian Peoplis and formed Archie Powell & the Exports. At least that is what I think happened. On both their MySpace and their very entertaining website (which has features like the webisode “Ask Brian (While He’s in the Shower)”), Juncunc is identified as Powell and his band all have the last name “Export.” Even as they retain Box Social’s melodic sense, they turned the catchy level up to eleven. Exchanging Woods’s guitar for Ryan Export’s bouncy keyboard proved to be the magic ingredient.
Too often keyboards come off sounding cheesy, but here it rumbles effectively underneath urgent opening track “Moving to the City” and slowly moves to the front through the course of their four original tunes, until it is carrying the melody on “Piggy Bank Blues.” Rather than the usual power pop subjects of girls and cars, they prefer to discuss their aspirations and the economic shortfalls of being a musician. It would seem “Moving to the City” predicted their relocation to Chicago, though it almost seems they had no choice as each line of the chorus ends with a mission. “Gonna play my hand,” “gotta make a stand,” “gonna pay my dues and say goodbye,” and “gonna find my ground and resupply” are all reasons they had to be moving on.
“Loose Change” continues in the same vein, though in this case it sounds more like a case of needing to get away than having a destination in mind. “Piggy Bank Blues” is an honest assessment of how being in a band usually takes more than it gives, especially monetarily. “Six years going and it’s time to assess if we’ve taken all there is to take, feeling apathetic and I gotta confess I think we’re never gonna catch us a break,” captures the futility inherent in being in an unknown band, though the damning line is probably “It doesn’t really matter if you’ve been to college or not, because rock and roll is just a pyramid scheme.”
You’re probably wondering how I know this is perfect power pop. Easy. Other than their brilliant cover of Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Wanna Dance,” every song is three minutes long, plus or minus nine seconds. There are hints of a host of influences, from Weezer to Wilco, but their infectious melodies and easy rhymes make Archie Powell & the Exports instantly memorable. It’s probably a good thing they moved before I got too attached.