In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about a phenomenon that worried Coca–Cola execs: Coke was losing to Pepsi in blind sip tests. Ultimately, Gladwell argues that Pepsi did better in the tests because it was sweeter, but that the intense sweetness was unsustainable; if people had to drink an entire can instead of a single sip, Coke’s relative un–sweetness would prevail.

Substituting “EP” for “sip” and “album” for “entire can,” Generationals needed to make sure on their latest, Actor–Caster, that the hook–based sweetness that carried the day on their EP Trust wouldn’t become unsustainably sweet when transposed onto a full–length.

Wisely, Generationals learned their Gladwellian lesson and eased up, allowing them the best of both worlds. On Trust, they delivered 10 minutes of addictive, sweet hooks a la Pepsi and now, on Actor–Caster, they’ve yielded to more Cokean tendencies, creating a powerful work of pop music that doesn’t overwhelm.

Actor–Caster’s songs fall under three categories. First are the pop gems. “Greenleaf” and album opener “Ten Twenty Ten” are standouts, showcasing Generationals’ ability to write unforgettable hooks that still manage to sound unlike any other band’s music. Bell–heavy “You Say It Too” and bluesy “Dirty Mister Dirty” count as gems too.

Then come the experiments. “Tell Me Now” has a more upbeat rhythm and a more produced sound than the rest of the album, and serves as a nice divider between otherwise dangerously similar songs. Their experiments can fall flat though: synth–heavy “Yours Forever” ends up sounding like the 80s — and not the good parts of the 80s. Finally, there are a couple of tracks —“Goose and Gander” and “Please Be It” — that border on blandness. These songs feel derivative, and only serve the purpose of making the impressiveness of their pop gem counterparts more apparent.

On the whole, these rare failed experiments and derivations are all that hold Actor–Caster back from becoming the pop masterpiece that it is so close to being.

4/5 Stars Generationals Actor–Caster Sounds Like: A wisely watered–down version of their previous EP, Trust 99–Cent Download: “Greenleaf”