This could well be one of the most disappointing albums of 2010.
Rob Crossan 2010
Sympathy is due, in some measure, to The Automatic. A spunky first album with a single that became inescapable in 2006 – Not Accepted Anywhere and Monster, respectively – was followed by a realisation of their promise to get ‘harder’ on second album This Is a Fix – an underrated sophomore effort which received little promotion compared to its predecessor.
Having set up their own label for the release of Tear the Signs Down, the impression here is of a band that, perhaps understandably, has lost a degree of faith in their own musical decisions after falling out with their previous paymasters. Choosing to go it alone is brave, but with such extra pressure on the shoulders of these musicians, workloads increased by necessity, it’s a sad inevitability that the music has suffered.
Any expectations of a continuation of the angular prickliness of This Is a Fix are smothered instantly by the immediate shortcomings of these songs. Where The Automatic once achieved a sound entirely of their own – whether you loved or loathed it – here they combine hackneyed Kaiser Chiefs-style harmonies with chug-along guitar riffs, and all the sharpness of past endeavours has been transformed into a kind of unpalatable sonic gristle.
What obliterates any lingering affection for the group isn’t the anaemic plod of lead single Interstate or the numbingly predictable rock-band-gets-grand-ideas string section outro to List. It’s more the notion that we’re listening to a band that have chosen to ignore their natural leftfield musical sensibilities in order to grope for a commercial audience again.
It’s all too little, too late by the time album highlight, the impressively frenetic (and far too short) Something Else, kicks in. One is left feeling angry, more than anything else, because it’s clear that The Automatic have the ability to create winningly bellicose rock. But Tear the Signs Down sounds cynically diluted, an effort to break the charts rather than a statement of singular, ambitious intent. It’s early days yet, but this could well be one of the most disappointing albums of 2010.