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Music Review

The Automatic: 'This Is A Fix'

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The Automatic: 'This Is A Fix'
Released on Monday, Aug 25 2008

One nagging doubt must have eaten away at The Automatic while recording This Is A Fix: how could they possibly top 'Monster'? This indie-pop anthem, with its radio/advert/football terrace-friendly chorus and walloping great riffs, overshadowed their debut album, Not Accepted Anywhere, entirely. It seems unlikely that the rowdy Cowbridge rockers will enter the nation's consciousness in such a manner ever again.

While the success of 'Monster' afforded the group a trip to LA for album number two, it didn't come without a price. The whirlwind of touring and promotion, which culminated in a set-smashing performance on GMTV, lost the band the services of keyboard basher and screeching vocalist Alex Pennie. A year on from Pennie's departure, with yourcodenameis:milo singer Paul Mullen installed as his replacement, The Automatic have returned with an album that struggles to establish its own identity. Ultimately it's the sound of a band who want to make thrilling, edgy alternative rock being hamstrung by sleek production and some misguided attempts to go pop.

At their very best, The Automatic could, with their punchy choruses and energetic guitar-shredding, stake a claim to be a British Foo Fighters. Sadly, when they're not on form they come across as a pale imitation of now defunct trendies Cooper Temple Clause - all pretentious lyrics and tuneless dirges. 'Steve McQueen' was a wise choice of lead single because it's the album's clear standout - very few moments on Fix match it for sheer rock 'n' roll thrills. Only the mega-catchy 'Responsible Citizen' comes close, but the sneering synth-pop of 'Magazines' is a successful experiment among the less convincing filler.

Helmed by Butch Walker (Fall Out Boy, Hot Hot Heat), Fixed is often so polished that it comes close to sounding like a McFly record. This means that the title track, on which the band attempt to cut loose with some Metallica-esque guitar riffs, is simply too restrained and dignified to achieve its aims. Similarly, 'Bad Guy' tries too hard to cater to Radio 1's daytime playlist and 'This Ship' is a series of half-formed pop hooks merged together into a bland, radio-friendly blancmange.

The album's closing duo, 'Make The Mistakes' and 'Light Entertainment', hint at the band's potential to plug the gap between pop and rock in a fashion similar to Ash or Feeder in their pomp. Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between on an album where The Automatic struggle to reconcile their commercial potential and their desire to experiment. Those 'Monster' royalty cheques will keep them ticking along for now, but The Automatic need to have a long, hard think about what sort of band they want to be before returning for round three.


> Click here for our recent interview with The Automatic

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