Chicago band Archie Powell & the Exports’ shtick is that they can sound British when they want- “exports,” get it? Otherwise, they do the snotty/funny Dead Milkmen Cali-punk thing, the surreal stoner Hussy thing, sometimes a catchy, anthemic Cheap Trick powerpop thing or maybe an unhinged Libertines thing. Sometimes they end up doing all that in the same song. Powell shreds his vocal cords the way Brandon Seabrook shreds a guitar – mercilessly. It’s a miracle the guy can get through an album, let alone a set. They’re doing the usual clusterfuck of CMJ shows: at Rock Shop at 10 PM on Oct 18 for $10, then they’re at Matchless on Oct 22 at 10 for two bucks less and on Oct 23 for free at Northern Soul Bar, 557 First St. in Hoboken (past Newark Street, about five minutes from the Path train station), time TBA.
They’ve also got a new album, Back in Black – no, not a bunch of AC/DC covers – streaming online. The first track is Everything’s Fucked, a screaming punk-garage-quirkpop number. Tattoo on My Brain builds from snotty vox and repeaterbox guitar to a pretty straight-up powerpop chorus. Lean is the first track that brings to mind the Hussy, followed by Scary Dreams, which takes an early Joe Jackson faux-reggae idea and makes fuzzy punk out of it.
With its fuzz bass way up in the mix and Powell’s distorted bullhorn vocals, Holes sounds like a demo by a punk-era pop band like the Shirts. The High Road is a steady, catchy four-on-the-floor pseudo-Oasis stomp; the band reprises that with more of a coy come-on feel (“My rehab’s overdue,” Powell confides) on I’m Gonna Lose It.
“That gurney’s gonna be a friend to me,” Powell theatens, “You make me wanna drink a fifth,” he continues in Jump off a Bridge. The poor guy’s holed up in the nuthouse and dreaming of oral sex – you can’t blame him. Mambo No. 9 isn’t a mambo it all – it’s practically oi-punk. The album’s last track, Everything’s Cool reaches for 70s novelty-pop drollery. There are also a couple of hilariously miscast ballads here, best left unspun: Powell’s full-throated attack on the mic is endearing but he gets completely lost when the volume comes down. He doesn’t seem the type to do that onstage – sing ballads, that is.