Note: This review is very long, for which i apologise…but i don’t want that to put you off – please read!!!
See also: Review on OwnThisMusic.com(it is different except individual tracks!) : Link
I’m going to start this review with a statement that you may or may not agree with – probably the latter, but that should have no bearing on the overall outcome of my writing! Fake Noise From A Box Of Toys by The Autumns is the best album of the year! Now, many will disagree with that, and a minority will agree, as this album is not going to have huge commercial success; the band are not going to become household names and nor will they have regular airplay on the radio or television. They will also not perform headline gigs on sell-out tours…and this is because, every so often, there is a band who slips unnoticed by the public eye. This has been the case for The Autumns since their 1st L.P The Angel Pool in 1997, whilst other bands who have been cited as being similar to The Autumns, have gone on to great acclaim, for example, Muse and Radiohead.
Now, on their fourth full length album, the band have thrown a curve ball (to nick an American phrase!) – they have re-written the Autumns’ traditional shoe-gazer background, and mixed it with a hint of punk and new-wave, drawing inevitable comparisons with bands like Bloc Party…more to the pity! Some have claimed that The Autumns have sold-out, that they are now just like any other indie-rock band in the already over-polluted sea of mediocrity in music, just because they are using alternative chord arrangements, slightly more distorted guitars and because lead-singer Matthew Kelly has put down the guitar, cut his hair and, God-forbid, started to dance a bit! Yikes, that’s like, so unoriginal!!! (can you see the sarcasm???)
This is a load of Bull, pardon my language, as The Autumns aren’t like any other indie band out there…they never have been. Unlike every other band, the Autumns have never begged for commercial success, in fact, they have done the opposite and shied away from commercialism. Furthermore, they are a band who care about the music they are making; they have spent 3 years creating the follow-up to 2004’s self-titled album…and have taken great care to make the album that they wanted – producing the album themselves!
Now, i’m not suggesting that the album is perfect, nor that the band are, as no-one is, but from the first listen, you can tell that this is a good album. The first track (and the shortest on the album!) is a 50-second burst of epic proportions – strings, heavily distorted guitars, crashing cymbals and dramatic lyrics (‘now that they love you, they’ll never trust you’) sung in a superb semi-falsetto voice creates perhaps the most epic short-song ever – no lie!!!
Then enters the pounding drums and edgy guitars of first single, Boys, a synth-led chorus that blends with Matt Kelly’s falsetto vocal to create one of the catchiest choruses you are likely to hear! This track has drawn criticism amongst The Autumns’ faithful for throwing away the shoe-gazing elements of the band’s previous work, but the band have simply placed it to one side, as it returns in the next track, Clem. Although opening heavily, the music soon subsides into an enchanting vocal and guitar performance in the verses, before crashing into another memorable chorus. These two tracks are different to any previous Autumns’ music, as they are much more immediate, with sing-along choruses that the band only used to pull out once in a blue-moon!
The momentum is soon shifted on the next track, The Midnight Knock, as the pace settles to a slow chime, the opening sounding almost like a child’s music box, with Matt Kelly’s layered vocals drifting beautifully over Frankie Koroshec and Ken Tighe’s guitars – set to full-shoe-gazer mode! It is a short burst of relief after the thundering opening, although that is soon changed. With an almost electro type opening, Killer in Drag, sees the drama re-enter, with lyrics such as ‘a bullet in the head’, and the dark imagery of ‘strip her to the bone and bind her’…The Autumns can not be accused of doing things by halves! This is a catchy song (with a sing-along vocal refrain simply made up of ‘ohs’!), which could easily gain new followers if it was ever released, particularly amongst fans of Muse and other high-drama bands!
A key element of this album is the shifting pace of each of the songs. The Autumns are constantly throwing in time-changes! The next track, and certainly a contender for track of the album, is Night Music, a gorgeous vocal performance over effect-laden guitars, this is perhaps the most beautiful performance by Matt Kelly, and that’s saying something, considering the songs in his resume! Again, another catchy chorus is present, but this time more tame than the others – this track is a true reflection on how the band can create amazing, dream-like music!!!
Contrast and experiment are perhaps the two key words that sum up this album – presented efficiently in the next two tracks! Only Young retains the effect-laden guitars, but with a much more exotic feel, returning to the distorted premise of earlier songs, although again, with a shift in the chorus! The next contender for ‘song of the album’ is Glass Jaw, which is nothing like Night Music, but proves to be one of the album’s most memorable moments!!! It opens with fast paced music and vocals, with bursts of guitar that truly reflect the band’s new experimental direction…and, of course (!), the chorus is another catchy one – it’s like The Autumns have discovered a book full of musical hooks!!! A Radiohead-esque jam (see ‘Blow-out’)… is followed by an abrupt end, as they switch to a completely unexpected time-change!!!
Uncle Slim opens with a nice drum intro, alongside a very strange effect, before the verse opens with dramatic piano backing. The chorus is, at first, a subtle affair in what is another upbeat song, which contains one of my favourite lyrics: ‘blue tights and red lights under white starry nights’. Another understated chorus before the song begins the dramatic build-up, with a great drum break, before the song climaxes with a heavy chorus – including la-laa’s!!
A further pause is introduced on the next song, The Beautiful Boot, a short burst of beauty, using dreamy male and female vocals over the chiming glockenspiel and bell backing – before a marching drum and slightly distorted guitar draw the song to a close. The next track is perhaps the weakest on the album, or at least, i first thought so…it is much more of a grower than the others. Adelaide follows the same formula of earlier songs, a slow verse leading to distorted breaks – although Steve Elkins’ drums are once again a key feature of the music, driving the song into an effect laden break – it is almost as if The Autumns have simply turned up the tempo on their previous slower, shoe-gazer songs!!!
Oh My Heart closes the album in style – as the epic nature of the first track is re-introduced right at the end! The song bursts straight into the chorus, another catchy sing-along, before breaking down into The Autumns trademark distorted pandemonium as seen on previous tracks such as The End. A further heavy chorus descends into a sweet and soft organ break – Matt Kelly’s vocals barely a whisper! The madness of the first three minutes is contrasted with the beauty of this slow-paced break – before the guitar riff breaks the tempo, as the song bursts back to life, with layer upon layer of guitar…until the album comes to a shuddering halt…and you realise that it’s over, much to your dismay!!!
A special note must be given to Dustin Morgan, the bassist, and Steve Elkins, the drummer, as i’ve gone on quite a bit about the vocals and the guitars, but it is these two who are driving the songs – i don’t think there is a better drummer out there at the moment than Elkins, as he performs some amazing drum fills and breaks…now, i’m no drummer, but i am certainly impressed by what i’m hearing! The album is definitely focused heavily on the influence of the drums!!!
Now, you may be thinking that i am being a bit preachy, and that i haven’t highlighted the faults anywhere near as much as i have the positives, but that’s because other people will do that for me – this album is not perfect, and it will not please everyone, but i doubt that someone could listen to this album without liking at least one track – and i don’t think that can be said about the band’s previous albums.
Unfortunately, this album will not be heard by as many people as it should; as i said before, that is the way of life; but if you take one thing from this review, it’s that you have to buy this album! In my opinion, if you thought The Autumns were good before, then you will think that even more after hearing this!
Tracks to listen to: Killer In Drag, Night Music, Glass Jaw, Oh My Heart…
Phew…what an exhausting write…sorry for making this so long…words just seem to pour out of me – i think it is probably a bit repetitive, so if you’ve sat and read all of this then well-done!!! If you have any comments about the review or the album then why not post…i’d like to hear other people’s opinions!!!!
Peace…(a very tired!)…a.b.
Autumns Homepage: Official
…Check out their Myspace and Record Label homepage (Bella Union) for tour info and news updates!!!