Autograph is a prime example of the L.A. glam metal scene: one big hit, lots of hair, lots of guitar, and a dangerous affair with pop music. Oh God how I love it. I’d heard about Autograph, as most of you have, through “Turn Up the Radio.” I actually hadn’t heard the song very much, when I bought the CD I didn’t really remember what it sounded like, but I knew I was in for some cheesy, sleazy? 80s music.
And “Turn Up the Radio” is indeed a good glam metal song. It’s got the synth textures, the heavy-esque riff, smooth back-up singing and that chorus. The sort of chorus that makes you put your fist in the air and sing along at the top of your voice. What’s singer Steve Plunkett talking about in the verse? Who the hell cares? The guitar (Steve Lynch) dominates this song, but the solo itself is actually rather tame. There are better ones on the CD. The question remains though, was the rest of the CD proof that Autograph was merely a admittedly deserving one-hit wonder, or proof that Autograph was a criminally short-changed 80s band.
In the end, it’s something of a mix. What really separates Autograph from other glam metal bands for me is the keyboards (Steven-good lord, is that three Steves in one band?-Isham). The keyboards are rather prominent, but they’re actually not all that cheesy. When Isham stays in the rhythm section the keyboard creates a subtle little magic, turning songs like “Send Her to Me” into something much better than other stuff out on the Sunset Strip scene. Of course, it has a few solos, like in “Night Teen & Non-Stop,” which are alright; I always find keyboard solos in any sort of hard rock laughable. They’re trying to rock as hard as the guitars, but the keyboard just doesn’t have the same bite as a guitar. Maybe some band will prove me wrong, but Autograph does not.
Autograph keeps their rock very pop, especially with the backing vocals, they might even be smoother than the backing vocals for Def Leppard. They come in and out of songs, usually around the pre-chorus, spicing up a song just when it was getting stale. Again, the keyboards balance out the guitars, their sleek sound makes it clear these guys are out to have fun.
Singer Steve Plunkett is a typical glam metal singer, he growls his vocals, but in a way that you can tell he’s got some sly smirk on his face the whole time. His voice is fine, but after some five songs it gets on my nerves, right about “Deep End.” Steve Lynch’s guitar isn’t nearly as flashy as some of his contemporaries, but he puts down a nice solo every so often. Randy Rand (bass) also holds his own, you can even hear his lines in “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Isn’t Me.” He even does a rather decent one in “Thrill of Love,” which has a humorously hard riff for the verses Steve Plunkett’s singing. “Human equation A plus me.”
Let’s talk about “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Isn’t Me” for a bit. This song makes…zero sense, I calculated. It’s about a girl who’s letting this guy walk over her. Apparently Steve Plunkett also had a thing with her, but “her mind is stuck on wait and see.” The bridge is a rather magical part of the song. “You know it makes me feel so bad/To know her kids won’t call me dad/She was the best I ever had/Her kind of loving drives me maaaad.” I think I wrote something similar in sixth grade, you know, minus the dad stuff.
If you like glam metal, get this CD, it’s worth it. Autograph’s fun, poppy. But if you don’t like glam metal, this will not change your mind. The lyrics are ridiculous, there’s that keyboard, and that classic coy glam metal vocals, but no true power ballads at least. But I know I enjoy it. In medium-sized doses.
Recommended Tracks: Send Her to Me, Thrill of Love, Turn Up the Radio