Monday, December 30, 2013

Let's Active - Afoot

Formed right here in North Carolina (the state I have called home now since 1988), Let’s Active began as a trio in Winston-Salem. Their original line up included Mitch Easter (guitar and vocals), Faye Hunter (bass) and Sara Romweber (drums). Easter had a close association with R.E.M. in the early days; he co-produced their first few albums in the early 80’s and Let’s Active even opened for them on tour.

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of their debut EP Afoot, which peaked at number 154 on the US Billboard Album chart.

Side one begins with “Every Word Means No”. My first exposure to this post-breakup track came from the Rhino Records compilation Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80's volume 14. When I first heard it, my thought was very much that it sounded like a UK group; it had a hint of a 60's British invasion influence to it musically.

"Make Up With Me" is a fitting follow-on to the previous track. In the narrative, the couple has broken up and the girl is implying that all signs say "no". But the guy clearly wants them to get back together. This one too has a catchy melody to it that is open and welcoming.

"Edge of the World" has quite a few musical layers working on it, carefully matched up for a solid foundation. On each subsequent listen I picked up a new little element. That makes the song stay fresh.

Side two starts with “Room With a View”. This is the first track that includes more than just Easter on the vocals. I like that because it gives the song two viewpoints to compare and contrast it all to. Of the songs so far, this one has the strongest new-wave elements (synths and the like).

"In Between" packs a lot into a four minute, up-tempo pop song that all fits together nicely.

“Leader of Men” closes out the record. I like the extended instrumental opening on this one and how the ladies of the band flatly echo the word “men” on the chorus.

This is the kind of power-pop I was into during my high school and college days, so this was a nice surprise to encounter now for the first time, thirty years later. Afoot is actually the perfect length for a debut album. Let's Active gives the listener a tight, polished package with no filler to bore you and plenty to keep you wanting more. I had to go to YouTube to give these songs a listen, so I would love to see this band's earliest releases make an appearance on the digital marketplaces. I would definitely snatch them up when they do.

On a sadder note, at age 59 Faye Hunter committed suicide earlier this year (July 21st) in Advance, NC, where she resided. Easter had some very nice things to say about his former girlfriend and band mate (click here to read that).

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