The Actual | In Stitches (Soft Drive)

cd_actualThe Actual's singer/guitarist Max Bernstein's pedigree also invites curiosity: his mother is famed screenwriter and director Nora Ephron, and his father is Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein.

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles-based quartet the Actual have a pretty interesting story. For starters, the band built up their rep from six years of hard-luck gigs and a well-regarded indie EP, Songs on Radio Idaho (Eyeball Records) before being discovered by ex-Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland. Weiland not only signed the band as the first artist on his Soft Drive vanity label, he co-produced the band's debut and invited them to leave behind the dingy bars of L.A. for massive arenas, opening shows for his all-star supergroup Velvet Revolver. The Actual's singer/guitarist Max Bernstein's pedigree also invites curiosity: his mother is famed screenwriter and director Nora Ephron, and his father is Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein.

If only the Actual's debut full-length were equally as interesting. That isn't to say that the album is bad—far from it, actually. The band has a punchy pop-punk sound and a wide-varying sonic template to work from. Bernstein also has a knack for hooks and a few moments of lyrical genius ("Bad luck always comes in threes/ I've got two, so come around and finish me" from the impeccably-titled "This Is the Worst Day of My Life (Do You Want to Come Over?)"). The problem, however, is that it all feels very by-the-numbers. The songs are solidly constructed and the band is technically proficient, but they don't do anything particularly new in the pop-punk genre, and Bernstein's raspy vocals don't sound all that invested in the lyrics he's singing. The Actual sound like a dead ringer for Massachusetts punkers Piebald, but without Travis Shettel's bitingly hilarious lyrics, they lack that band's spark.

In Stitches is the exact definition of an average rock record: The Actual do nothing so wrong on this album that listeners should be steered away from it, but at the same time there's very little to make you stand up and take notice, either. There are two very good, solid pop songs (the previously mentioned "Worst Day" and the synth-driven "If You See Her"), but the rest of the album fails to leave a lasting impression. C+ | Jason Green

RIYL: Piebald, the Get Up Kids

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