The Method Actors hail from the Dixie avant-pop capital of Athens, Georgia, where they made their concert debut on Halloween, 1979. Like Pylon, they dealt in minimalist dance/trance rock. They also made a lot of noise for just two guys. The seven-track 10-inch Rhythms of You is a crisp, aggressive capsulization of the Actors’ act, a danceable Wire in the stark contrast between David Gamble’s thundering drums and Vic Varney’s perky chicken-scratch guitar (and bass). “No Condition” is particularly riveting, its psycho-Ramones drive heightened by Varney’s choogling guitar and the pair’s vocals, one a droll singspeak and the other a madhouse wail.
Dancing Underneath is a 12-inch variation of the first EP, subtracting three tracks but adding the new “E-Y-E,” which recalls the experimental dub funk of Public Image’s Metal Box, thanks to Gamble’s hard, shifting syncopation and Varney’s disorienting overdubbed guitar conversation.
In England, where the Method Actors received ecstatic press, Little Figures was originally released as a double album. Songs like “Commotion,” a locomotive number with a catchy bass figure and quasi-Eastern guitar interjections (… la Keith Levene), and “Bleeding,” with clipped-bass funk rhythm and dub vocal effects, reinforce the PiL comparison. But the Actors add the exotic clang of steel drums to “Halloween”; “I’m in the Mood for Love” (a Varney original) has an eerie poppish melody underlined only by bass guitar before breaking into a hammy “Volga Boatmen” chorus. The American version of Little Figures, a one-record distillation with ten of the original 17 cuts, is recommended for the slightly less adventurous. (This version, to complicate discographical matters, was subsequently released in the UK as well.)
Although the Actors first made their reputation as live performers, Live in a Room! — recorded at Atlanta’s 688 Club — is a disappointing documentary of them on stage. (It must be noted that this is not the original band: Gamble had been replaced by ex-Swimming Pool Q Robert Schmid.) The addition of saxman Stan Satin and occasional guitarist/bassist Michael Richmond (on loan from Love Tractor) fills out their sound without weighing it down. Unfortunately, bootleg-style sound quality dulls the group’s manic edge.
Retaining the maximum strength lineup featured on the live record, the Method Actors’ next (and final) release was as a quartet. Luxury includes a bizarre rocking rendition of the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” as well as Varney’s songs (some co-written with others). Satin’s aimless (and ceaseless) sax is an unwelcome addition to the sound, while Varney’s falsetto vocals provide ludicrous counterpoint to the rugged beat music.