David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 238: Let's Active (Every Word Means No)

March 29, 2023

Mitch Easter is a significant part of American pop music. Easter's name is known to most of us as the producer of REM's E.P., Chronic Town, and first two albums, which while not huge commercial successes, certainly launched him and the band as musical innovators. Easter would end up producing a lot of alternative bands, often in the new genre of "jangle pop," such as Game Theory, Love Tractor, Pavement, and Velvet Crush. He also supported artists like Marshall Crenshaw, Drive-By Truckers, and Dwight Twilley by playing back up on their albums.

All in all, you'd have to say that Mitch Easter was a musical force to be reckoned with in the early 1980s.

However, if you were to first assess Easter through his band Let's Active in 1983, your commitment to him long-term might have been summed up by the band's minor hit, "Every Word Means No."

Check out the video as linked below. Pastel colors, vests, tousled hair, and puppies. Yes, puppies. How far had new wave fallen from punk?

Play the video and think of the arguments you might have made to the big-time record labels.

Look at the band: two girls and a guy. You don't see that anywhere.

What's with the puppies? He's singing to the one puppy! I think we'll pass. Try R.C.A.

Listen to that jangly guitar. How can you ignore that hook?

Been done by The Byrds. That's ancient history. Sorry, but no.

But, it has classic "love gone wrong" lyrics. None of that angry-at-the-world shit from the punks.

Yeah, well, that's why we still have Air Supply signed. So, no.

C'mon, it's a can't-miss, pop hit.

What can I say. No. No. No!

All of the band members are so cute. You could put them on the cover of any magazine and sell thousands of copies.

I don't care, No. Truly, every word means no.

Smash Mouth will cover this song a couple of decades later.

Well, that sealed the deal. NO! I'm out of here.

In some ways, this video may have changed the trajectory of the band. Easter has said that the puppies were supposed to be more rambunctious dogs intended to make the video chaotic.1 Sadly, they got cuteness instead of chaos, and I suppose Weezer is all the happier for it (see Day 50: Weezer).

Truthfully, based on this song, Let's Active should have been more popular. Maybe there were "unsafe on any theme . . . looking for directions" after "Every Word Means No." Luckily, Easter seemed more linked to a sound, this infamous "jangle pop" where words often meant little anyway: "empty prayer, empty mouths" as sung by Michael Stipe on "Let's Talk About The Passion" on Easter's produced Murmur also in 1983.

And his band's video was also a harbinger of things to come, where images meant more than words, and pastel colors bled into our t.v. shows. Let's active was destined to be soon inactive.

1Amir, Erin. "Mitch Easter: Beyond and Back." Rocker, March 2011.

Let's Active. "Every Word Means No." Afoot. I.R.S., 1983. Video link here.

Day 237: Missing Persons "Words"

Day 239: The Crash Test Dummies "Afternoons and Coffeespoons"

See complete list here.