"Dancing Through Dark Times" (Album, 2011)
Out Of Line
Writing an album of songs that seeks to make some sense of the world around us today is always laudable. Given where the world is at right now, you might expect the usual Sturm und Drang of angry, political and serious commentary. What Auto- Auto have chosen to do on their third album is to say the world may be going to hell in a hand basket but let’s do disco instead.
Although there wasn’t one, this could have safely bagged a dsoaudio.com “Most eclectic album of the year” award last year. Industrial, synthpop, disco, darkwave, trance and more all get a look in here at some point. Remarkably, it all hangs together, thanks mainly due to the strength of writing – whichever genre (or genres - multiple) each song happens to encompass. Compared with their two previous albums, a couple of things really stand out on Dancing Through Dark Times:
1. The songwriting ability is far wider than most will have anticipated
2. This comes completely out of leftfield
and (give or take a few moments) it all works. To be fair, there is an underlying seriousness to some entries here, even if the route of expression taken is one designed to sound at home on a flashing floor and under sparkling disco ball lights. You’d be hard-pushed to find a more eclectic album by a single artist on the scene last year. At its best when cleverly playing with genre and perception of genre, the range of vocal styles employed too is diverse and most accomplished when pushed into previously unexplored territory.
Stand outs are the acoustic guitar-driven idiosyncratic Rabbits of Belgium – probably the single most originally creative (and overtly political) song of the thirteen collected here. Black Disco Ball incorporates the lyric: “Spinning like a black disco ball.” making it the most literal interpretation of the album’s title. Whilst it is perhaps the chorus on dancefloor stomper Zombies on MTV: “They told me disco was dead, guess they were lying to me, I see zombies dancing on MTV” that the band’s irreverent ‘anything goes’ attitude comes through in its most joyous incarnation.
It’s the more familiar, dark dance/industrial crossover songs that don’t impress quite as much. They’re efficient enough (it’s something Auto-Auto have always made a good fist of in the past), but alongside the more esoteric tracks they lack bite. Not sure if that suggests where they should be headed from now on mind; but we look forward to the next Auto-Auto release with much interest! 7/10
Rob Dyer (April 2012)
"Sounds of A New Generator" (Album, 2005)
This debut album from Sweden's Auto-Auto is an uncommon blend of influences. The naturally confident vocals could be lifted from several major alt.indie players, whilst the music ranges from Killers-esque glam pop, through the laid-back Apoptygma Berzerk electro of An Argument. Oddly, Queen of Flies sounds like unshakeably like every member of Squeeze was raised exclusively on early Mute singles. There's very little post-production fiddling with the voice too - a nice (and welcome) change in this field.
In general tone, I'm reminded of the way in which Seabound wrap underground electro in more mainstream song writing conventions. To their credit, since Auto Auto are largely competent in any style variation they turn their hands to, this tends to work wherever in the alternative spectrum each new song happens to reside. Mass For The End of Time suggests a path well worth following in future, more intellectual and considered and less concerned with pop song conventions, its brooding, foreboding quality is impressive. Harmageddon is a fine example of their alt.pop side, expertly bringing together fuzzy guitars, crisp percussion and a deep bass synth line. Closing with Switchblade was a terrific choice - its leftfield cello, piano, soft percussion, quirky synth melodies and deliberately twang American vocal delivery could be eels on top form and ensures this debut won't be forgotten in a hurry.
There is clearly a lot being worked through the system on Sounds of A New Generator and I'd expect subsequent long players to be more focused and better still as a consequence. Nevertheless, even in this formative stage there's plenty worth spending your time with. 7/10
Rob Dyer (May 2009)
Edge of Dawn