Tuesday, 2 September 2008

ALBUM: The Automatic - This is a Fix (B-Unique)

We’re all familiar with the Automatic, right? The Welsh quartet who could easily play the part of Frankenstein, if his monster were 3 minutes of annoyingly catchy pop instead of some massive green bloke with bolts in his neck. Since those days, yelping keyboardist Alex Pennie has jumped ship to something a little more credible and Paul Mullen has broken Yourcodenameis:milo fans’ hearts by joining in his place. Out are the keyboards and incessant shouting, in are more guitars and a more brutal product.

Album opener ‘Responsible Citizen’ sets the scene for the whole album, one of paranoia a mistrust of the government and media. It’s fair to say ‘This is a Fix’ is a much more grown up effort than debut album ‘Not Accepted Anywhere’. Whereas their old songs were catchy in an infuriating way, on this record they’re far more likeable and seem to have more chance of being played on repeat than previous work. The aforementioned first track is the perfect example of this, with its simple yet effective chorus of “I’m going out of my way to go out of my mind” before it reaches the denial confessions of “I tell you I’m fine”. Single ‘Steve McQueen’ follows flawlessly, and is probably the most reminiscent of the old days of all of the songs on this album. ‘Accessories’ breaks the run of heavy guitars, and with it is more throwaway than the previous two tracks.

The inclusion of Paul Mullen in the band’s line-up really has done wonders for them (and I say this with my love of YCNI:M completely put to one side), helping them to produce pop that doesn’t make your skin crawl, with a prime example being ‘Magazines’, a song which tackles a hidden agenda within the media, bringing the paranoid nature of the album back into play. Mullen sings lead vocals on this track, which helps break up the record a bit and add some variety, without resorting to high-pitched yelping. ‘In the Mountains’ is another instance of near-perfect craftsmanship, which starts off sounding like the Killers crossed with a tranquilised Kaiser Chiefs before heading back to more familiar territory for the chorus.

‘Light Entertainment’ closes the album as it began, with resonating bass and simple hooks. ‘This is a Fix’ shows a marked improvement from previous efforts – whether they could have achieved an album of this quality without making changes to the group’s personnel will never be seen – but there’s still a way to go before they make the transition from being interesting but a little average to a force to be reckoned with. Still, it’s a step in the right direction and things can only get better from here on in.

Standout track: In the Mountains

Rhian Daly