The Automatic

This Is A Fix

Poor old The Bloody Automatic. Cursed with the ability to squeeze out club, terrace and playground-razing earworms like golden goose eggs, and all they wanted to do was be a proper serious hardcore band. Particularly so former screamo-yelping lynchpin Alex Pennie, who, after his band hit the peak of their GMTV-trashing, cabbie-pleasing fame on the back of the ubiquitous ‘Monster’, was to be heard grumbling, “When you’re in a band you don’t think that in a year you’re going to be on a TV show with these dicks from Big Brother being all cool,” and sodding off on tour with Frank Carter. Long before he quit, you got the sense he was embarrassed by his band. Because Gallows’ screaming, ink-stained, bludgeoning monotony, aping dull self-righteous Americans from 20 years ago is much more authentic than writing decent pop songs.

So, where next for the Cowbridge boys? The second album is usually where fun, energetic bands of The Automatic’s ilk go astray by “going serious” and getting some big US rock producer to beef up their sound by turning the pomposity up to 11 (hello, The Subways!). So the adoption of Paul Mullen from post-hardcore sloggers Yourcodenameis:milo and news that part of the album was recorded in LA with Fall Out Boy producer Butch Walker had us worried.But, much as it causes us a painful credibility leap akin to ever taking Charlie from Busted seriously, they’ve kind of gone and done it. ‘Responsible Citizen’ opens the album with a rush of Foo Fighters-ish guitar energy that makes you wonder what made them choose the comparatively dull and plodding ‘Steve McQueen’ as a comeback single.

And if at moments you can almost hear the ghost of Pennie’s yelp, in truth they’re better off without the clichéd emo ‘one singer for the pretty bits, one for the distorted screaming’ set-up. It was noted in NME in 2006 that “without Pennie they’re a mildy thrilling guitar pop band”. And that’s pretty much true. But not in a bad way. What they’ve lost in his bratty presence, they’ve gained in a more grown-up, traditional sound.

‘This Ship’ has an ’80s big rock feel with echoey, Edge-y guitars. It’s your basic cheesy-but-stirring post-hardcore rock anthem, not a million miles from countrymen Lostprophets. ‘Secret Police’ is surely a shoe-in for next single, an anthemic beast that sees Rob Hawkins wondering “what happened to the vision we had?”. ‘Bad Guy’ is an abrasive snarl and ‘Light Entertainment’ forswears fun for crushing heaviness. Ironically, though, probably the best song comes from their new credibility-pedal Mullen in the form of ‘Magazines’. Perhaps because he’s got nothing to really prove, he can get away with contributing its gem of a poppy, sugary, harmonised chorus, and the handclaps here are probably the most exciting moment on the whole album. Much to their probable delight, there’s no ‘Monster’ on here, no immediate chart-humpers of the kind that fell out out of ‘Not Accepted Anywhere’, but there is a solid rock record. Whether that was the best thing to aim for is another question, but they deserve credit for forcing us to take them seriously. Hang on a minute… what’s that coming over the hill? Is it an improbably good second album? Looks like it.

Emily Mackay