The joy of discovering a band you didn’t even know existed is one of the finer pleasures of being a dedicated music fan. Barely known cult acts — from shimmery British guitar rock like Josef K to unheralded folkies such as Vashti Bunyan — have all been newly canonized by the response to exquisitely curated reissues and compilations. This Is Still It, a career summation of Athens, Ga.’s the Method Actors, handily performs the same kind of career rejuvenation that the previously mentioned artists have enjoyed.
The Method Actors’ sound is of a piece with their legendary Athens peers. The manic energy of early B-52’s, the intricate guitar work of R.E.M., and the propulsive jangle of Pylon are all in evidence. But the group refines and exaggerates these defining qualities. The material is more angular and more manic, at times recalling the raw live sound of early Talking Heads. It’s hard to stop name checking influences — OK, a less melodramatic version of Television comes to mind — without making the Method Actors sound like also-rans. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and when you consider that much of this material was recorded 30 years ago, the Method Actors stand apart as innovators.
The songs on This Is Still It are as likely to casually unfurl, as on the gripping and evocative “E-Y-E,” as to coil tightly and spring forth on the spiky first track “Do The Method.” Elsewhere, “Rang-A-Tang” approaches jangly ballad territory with the intricate guitar work of Vic Varney before transforming into a rhythm heavy rave-up that showcases the drum prowess of David Gamble. That just two people are responsible for the racket on This Is Still It is another testament to the raw talent the Method Actors display.
This Is Still It is a document of the Method Actor’s enduring appeal, even if that appeal hasn’t, until now, extended beyond in-the-know devotees of the Athens scene. That such a glorious and previously unheralded collection of tunes could appear so far into what seems like a decade plus wave of reissue fever is a wider comment about how much great music still out there waiting to be unearthed. The Method Actors deserve to be placed alongside the very best acts of any scene or era.