Acting Strange: Debut Album Is More Than Just “TALK TALK TALK”

Taxidermy is a skill that is utilized for a variety of reasons. It can be an invaluable resource for educational purposes, such as the exhibits you’d see in the Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall Of Mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum Of Natural History. It can provide bragging rights for your Uncle Horace, who miraculously reeled in that monster bass right after he knocked back that fifteenth Keystone Light, proving that the big one did not get away. Or, it can be used in pure kitsch fashion, as in the case of those mythical jackalopes that you see mounted in those gag-inducing, over-priced, hick-hop blaring meccas known as the “Something Roadhouse” or “Something Steakhouse”. Either way, there is a demand for the taxidermist, and one who chooses this as a career path, usually stays in it for the long haul. In other words, it’s generally not a gateway job that leads to something else, unless said taxidermist is saddled with typical self-employment woes like a recession, fierce competition, etc. However, in the case of cousins Ali and Billy Strange, their foray into stuffing pine martens (they’re a part of the otter and badger family) actually led them to playing music. And no, they weren’t beating femurs on xylophones made from rib cages like characters in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon (although that would be awesome). No, the truth is “Strange”, which in this case doesn’t really mean “strange”, but rather, “family”…

Acting Strange forgoes thrift store furniture shopping by nabbing curbside treasures for free.

Ali and Billy (from the UK, in Glasgow’s East End) would spend their summers working for their uncle, Gabby, at his taxidermy shop in Oban. In between orders, he would teach the cousins how to play guitar, as well as a variety of other instruments. This multi-faceted mentorship became a crucial component for the Strange ones, contributing an eclectic influence and laying the groundwork for what was to come. Honing their skills, the two began writing songs and practicing fervently, having caught the bug of wanting to produce records instead of mounting wombats. Sadly, their uncle passed away in January 2015, and perhaps to honor his memory, Ali and Billy ventured back to his workshop to record some material they’d written. Armed with a Tascam 8-track, the pair knocked out their lo-fi debut EP “Night On the Tiles”, which they released on November 25, 2016. A single, “Sharp End” was also released (on Bandcamp) followed by the “Save Me” single a month later. The band’s first gig was supporting Ezra Furman at his sold out Glasgow show in Broadcast, followed by shows with Blank Realm, as well as performing at the Stag and Dagger Festivals.

By now, Acting Strange was gaining support in the music press from the likes of This Is the Latest, ALT-MU Magazine, GIGsoup, and Tenement TV. They were primed and ready to record an album that would be a tribute to the past, but keeping a creative eye towards the future.

Acting Strange not only walks the walk, they talk the “TALK TALK TALK”.

Wanting to craft an album that would age well and harken back to the classic albums that they liked to drink to, Ali and Billy opted again to use their trusty Tascam 8-track for the recording process. To complete their sound, they added a new member, Jack Rabbit (Strange) on drums, giving the band a natural step forward. Working in a converted shed in East Kilbride, Acting Strange completed their debut full-length “TALK TALK TALK” in just two weeks. Released May 5 via Glaswegian DIY label In Black Records, the trio has already enjoyed favorable exposure from Brooklyn Vegan, Impose Magazine, and Tenement TV, as well as airplay on BBC Radio Scotland. It’s with good reason why: 12 tracks of perfectly placed mood music that was influenced by the records in the band members’ collections. The opener, “Sharp End”, is a flavorful slice of catchy glam (complete with handclaps) that brings to mind what the Strokes would sound like if they existed in the ’70s. “Save Me” is a sublime fister that should satisfy the powerpop and garage rock fans here in the States, and reason alone to find favor with us fickle Americans. “Start It Over” also has its ’70s flourishes, a lilting tune that would’ve been the result if bands like Shoes, Flamin’ Groovies, or even Big Star gave the whole glam thing a shot. Proving that they’re able to provide the listener with a bit of the mellow, the wistful “Wrong Desires” delivers the goods with its alt-folk stylings. “Acting Strange” is an excellent, hook-driven anthem that would sound natural in the songbooks of Robyn Hitchcock or Julian Casablancas. Other highlights include: “RUMBLE”, an acoustic-driven garage punk thumper; “Questions”, a retro rocker that refuses to let you pinpoint the familiarity of the sound; and “Universe Blues”, an alt-country/folk/bluesy/psych mash-up that’s pulled off seamlessly. This album should absolutely be lifted from the basement of the underground, and be propelled upwards (who cares if it goes mainstream?) and landing on numerous critics’ 2017 “Best Of” lists. With “TALK TALK TALK”, Acting Strange has proven that they can walk the walk of rock ‘n’ roll.

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Joey Camp

Joey Camp is a former podcaster that's worked with the GaragePunk Hideout and Real Punk Radio. He currently resides in Roanoke, VA, and you can follow him on Twitter @Joey Camp.

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