Review Summary: Without a Pennie to their name, The Automatic could soon need every penny they have saved.
I have a confession to make; My name is Davey and I am a fence-sitter. I have been known to respond with a casual “it’s ok” when someone says that I will either love something or hate it. If ever there was a love or hate proposition in the music industry however, it concerns a former member of Welsh quartet The Automatic. Once described by NME as “a deranged midget with borderline Tourettes”, Alex Pennie very much stood out on the band’s debut LP ‘Not Accepted Anywhere’. Whether he was bouncing around stage with his keyboard or yelping at every opportunity he had, it was fair to state that you could not ignore Pennie… You either loved him or hated him. Obviously, his colleagues chose the latter as he was nowhere to be seen come follow-up ‘This Is A Fix’.
Heading away from the dancey brand of post-hardcore which filled their debut, ‘This Is A Fix’ was a solid - but unsensational - straight up rocker. Unfortunately, the band’s label were unhappy with the Pennie-less results and failed to promote the album, resulting in it swiftly fading from memory. Setting up their own label (Armored Records) for creative control purposes, The Automatic return with their third LP ‘Tear The Signs Down’. Unfortunately, they may have been better off leaving the control aspect to others, since it is anything but creative. In fact, this may be the most forgettable album of the past year… Entire songs seem to be magically wiped from memory before the next track has even started!
You can tell a change in sound is in store for the band as soon as the slow-burning synth-heavy opener ‘Insides’ kicks in. The genre of choice this time around seems to be Alternative Rock, with retro and psychedelic influences haphazardly thrown in. Think Biffy Clyro and The Futureheads meeting Placebo and The Stone Roses. It’s not even the mess it sounds like it could be, because a mess would at least be remembered. Lead single ‘Interstate’ and the aptly titled ‘Cannot Be Saved’ desperately strive to find a winning hook, but end up feeling forced and repetitive… What some of these songs wouldn’t give to have Pennie squealing in the background to make them somehow memorable. The only track that feels natural is 2nd single Run and Hide, and even that won’t exactly set the charts on fire.
There really is not that much more to say about ‘Tear The Signs Down’… It is just so underwhelming and unengaging. So much so that it took me a few listens to even realize that there is a guitar solo contained within so-so closer ‘Tear It Down’. Furthermore, the apparently intentional lack of grit shown by lead vocalist Robin Hawkins is puzzling and counter-productive. ‘Tear The Signs Down’ is not necessarily an horrific album because there is nothing terrible included on it… Alex Pennie haters could even prefer this to their debut. There simply is nothing to invest in here… Nothing to make you care. Basically, it is a big bowl of meh.
Recommended Tracks: Run and Hide & Race To The Heart Of The Sun.