RNDM - Acts
Your humble reviewer has made a number of poor choices in bars, usually concerning the next drink or when to let (or not let) something lie. Others, apparently, are cable of achieving far more from such scenarios. In 1999, Pearl Jam bassist, Jeff Ament whilst playing with drummer Richard Stuverud in side project Three Fish met singer songwriter Joseph Arthur who was booked to support them at legendary NYC club Wetlands. Following this seemingly random encounter they kept in touch over the years that followed and in 2010 Ament invited Arthur and Stuverud to his Montana home to jam. Arthur had expressed to Ament an ability to write up-tempo songs, to which Ament replied “I have a slew of them. Let's get together and make an up-tempo record.' The jamming sessions quickly produced a song and they realised that out of this randomness, or RNDM-ness a band and album subsequently emerged.
Acts is the product of four day's recording under the supervision of long serving Pearl Jam engineer Brett Eliason. In this short time the group had close to 20 tracks, which were then whittled down to 12 on the album. Three people, with guitars, bass, drums, vocals and a smidgen of harmonica in their armoury working at pace could have resulted in a stripped back affair that was limited in content. This is far more rounded, as if their experience engulfs these songs with a substance whilst retaining some sense of immediacy.
Arthur’s world weary vocals work well with the jangling guitar and powerhouse rhythm section template that many of the songs adhere to. Not all of the songs here are as up-tempo as their call to arms required but this simply adds light and shade to the album. Brian Eno fans may need to look elsewhere. Likewise, for fans of genuine American contemporary rock need look no further.