The Automatic - This Is A Fix
It would be impossible to review anything by The Automatic without mentioning the word Monster or the phrase ‘the shouty one’, so I’m going to get that out of the way now. Firstly Monster may have been the band’s biggest hit from their debut album, but it did not make them a one hit wonder as Raoul had already been the band’s first top 40 hit. Secondly most of the criticism levelled at the band’s uneven debut album revolved around the annoying background noises created by ‘the shouty one’, Alex Pennie, so technically that’s not all the band’s fault. Luckily for The Automatic, he’s gone on to pastures new (or the Job Centre), and they’ve replaced him with Yourcodenameis:Milo guitarist Paul Mullen who is definitely not a ‘shouty one’. So is there a bright future coming over the hill for The Automatic? (pun completely and shamefully intended)
This Is A Fix certainly starts off promisingly enough with the brilliant Responsible Citizen. You can immediately notice the change to heavier riffs, and it means the track just grabs your attention from the start like any good album opener should. It comes packed with quotable lyrics like “I’m going out of my way/To go out of my mind” that will occupy the Facebook status of many an Automatic fan. It may not be much use as a Government warning advert against drinking, but I haven’t heard a better opening track this year.
With barely a gap between them, the album then crashes straight into the first single Steve McQueen with its digs, in my opinion, at their dearest departed member - “Everything’s just as I left it/But it wasn’t me who left it/The position has been filled”. It also contains the nearest to a catchy sing-along chorus on the album, not surprising considering it was one of the earliest songs written for the album before the band had perhaps decided on their new, angrier sound.
The strong start to the album is continued with Accessories and Magazines, which has a Mullen-led vocal. It is also here that the overall angry tone to the whole album clearly develops. First with anger at the music industry in Accessories (“Where do I connect with this machine?/We have become accessories”) and then at the media in Magazines (“Read between the lines/It’s what I thought you were good at/But you do what you like”). It was at this point that I really started to think I was listening to an album that would finally beat The Subways as most favourite of the year so far. Unfortunately this didn’t pan out to be the case.
The middle section of the album is very disappointing as when they should be building on the ideas shown in the opening tracks, they instead just carry along in the same veins. We get the odd angry lyrics, especially so on Bad Guy (“Good things don’t happen to ugly people”), and the same heavy guitars but sadly minus any kind of discernible and catchy riffs. The only difference is with the introduction of synth during In The Mountains, but that leads to its own problems in that it ends up sounded like something from their debut album.
Ironically it’s after the track Sleepwalking, which arguably the band seemed to be doing during this album after Magazines, that the album picks up for a strong finish to rival its start. Secret Police boasts one of the best riffs on the album, helped by the fact that it runs a mere three minutes so it doesn’t outstay its welcome like some tracks on the album. Make The Mistakes is one of the few slow tracks on the album and the lyrics really shine through and contains my favourite lyrical coupling with “I’m on your side/But we don’t see eye to eye”. The album then ends with its heaviest track in Light Entertainment which, if it does nothing else, certainly leaves a lasting impression that the band have definitely moved on from the ‘shouty’ days of their debut.
Against all the odds, The Automatic have come back fighting with a stronger album than their first. It isn’t without its faults as it still suffers from the inconsistency of Not Accepted Anywhere, but there isn't necessarily a bad track, just a bunch of average ones. Also you can definitely see a future for the band now which arguably you couldn’t before. Any further evidence needed of that came from the lead singer’s own mouth – “The screaming thing, there’s only so far you can take that, really”.