Sound — 8
01. Insides: it's been two years since the release of The Automatic's second album, This Is A Fix and I can imagine all the fans of the band have been excited and have been waiting for a wonderful return to form for the band. How strange it is then that the first track of the new album sounds nothing like the traditional sound that The Automatic has set for themselves. I am aware that This Is A Fix deviated from their original Not Accepted Anywhere sound in various places but I'm sure I'm not the only one who was disappointed with this introduction track. Although, having said that, Iwan's drumming was the first thing to stand out to me. Full of life and really keeps the track flowing. Can't say much else stands out though. Paul's vocals sound a little too lack lustre, save for a partially catchy chorus. As said, nothing hugely amazing here in my opinion. The song starts to pick up towards the end with some lovely backing vocals added to the chorus as the song picks up more steam and gets a little crazier. Shame the track didn't start like this! Would of got it a higher rating - 6/10 02. Interstate: the second track is a sigh of relief. Back on to the traditional Automatic sound! Interstate, a wonderful reflection of American culture brings us back to the tone that the band is famous for and definitely makes up for the first track. Welcome back Mr. Frost! After all the songs that Paul has sung with the Automatic on This Is A Fix, it's refreshing to hear Rob's voice once more. Albeit for the quite cheesy inclusion of Paul's Na na na's and Oh yeah's the song really shines vocally with lovely verse sections and an instantly memorable chorus. Paul's little interlude section sounds a tad ropey but still good with the rest of the song. All the instruments sounds brilliant here, especially the keyboard and synth parts. Another highlight for me would be the vocal line tear the signs down, put up your own.' Definitely a recognisable and memorable message delivered by the band. As the track comes to a close, we definitely know we're listening to The Automatic. 10/10 03. Cannot Be Saved: moving on from a song of American culture we have a song about paranoia as stated by Rob. Although, even though he's stated this in an interview, it's only half visible how the lyrics fit in with this topic. I also have this same feeling with Insides which is supposed to be a song about breaking up yet not wanting to admit it's over. There are sections that fit the topics and sections that don't. Anyway, moving back onto the topic of sound, I really like the sound of this track. It's not completely Not Accepted Anywhere but it's not too alienated. The chorus is definitely delivered in an NAA style though, which is brilliant. Once again Rob's voice sounds brilliant and suits the track well and Paul's little This is an army' section sounds great too. That line, much like tear the signs down, put up your own' seems like a key phrase to remember from the album. In fact, the two could be seen to fit together in some way. Still, moving onto the next track, a quick round up. Great verses, awesome catchy chorus, pretty good interlude from Paul and wonderful instrumentation all around. 9/10 04. List: At the bottom of your list of things to do' Great catchy line that echoes throughout the entirety of this track. I really dig the riff play in the verses of this song but I'm a little unsure of the tone heard at the very beginning before the rest of the band kicks in. Once again we have a well sung song from Rob and the chorus is yet another catchy one. Some wonderful backing vocals and Paul's vocals shining here both increase the appeal of the track although near the end where they simply repeat the previously mentioned lyric makes me feel that they didn't quite have as many ideas for this song as the others, which is a shame cos I really like the promising sound that emits from this track. Strangely though, we leave this track via an orchestral piece which is quite unexpected but saves the song's short length and sets us up for the next wonderful track. 8/10 05. Run And Hide: Sharpen your eyes! You'll never leave this house alone! Get up, get up and stand your ground!' Another great lyrical highlight from the album, fitting with the several I've already pointed out. By far my favourite track on the whole album and also the second single, Interstate being the first. Straight after the strings section we burst straight into the simple yet driving riff accompanied by Paul's vocals which sound absolutely stellar on this track. Much like Interstate, I feel that Run and Hide definitely returns to the formula that The Automatic so closely followed in their debut album. Everything needed is here. Awesome riffs, some great lyrics and vocals and an amazing solo/interlude section to boot. I absolutely love this song and can't emphasise enough how good it is. The culmination of all the different elements, synth, drums, guitars, bass and vocals is wonderful and never sounds over complicated or like it's out of place. It all meshes together well and creates a single worthy of putting out. I'd wish the song was longer because of how much I love it but to be honest, the length is the perfect amount as to not bore or over repeat itself. Well done guys, this track is definitely the diamond of the album! 10/10 06. Sweat Heat Noise: really like the flow of this song, really calming but slightly upsetting somewhat. The synth parts sound beautiful as we are lead into quite a nice sounding chorus. Perhaps not as catchy as the other songs on the CD but still good. I must admit now I had some lyrical confusion with this song. The inclusion of the line give me sweat, heat and noise and I'll give you the best of me' carried sexual connotations to me but in fact the song covers the topic of the band's live hiatus during the time of This Is A Fix. Now looking on other lyrics during the song, this is much more apparent. There's nothing that really stands out from this track. There are a few interesting sounding guitar riffs and Paul's echo-y caws in the background sound quite dreamlike but besides that there isn't much else to say about this track. 7/10 07. High Time: what on earth? Now, leaving the album for a second, I've never really listened to Yourcodenameis:Milo (Paul Mullen's previous band) before and I've never really had an urge to listen to them but it's very obvious this song is a result of Paul's influence on the band. I doubt anyone would ever say this sounds like The Automatic whilst listening to it. I've read other reviews that agree this song is the weakest point of the album and I agree 100%. Once again, like Insides (another YCI:M style track in my opinion) Iwan's drumming carries the song all the way through but besides that, no instrumentation really gets me going or intrigues me. There are occasions that Paul's voice sounds pretty cool but there are lots of different parts to this song which is a tad confusing in comparison to the simple structure of most Automatic songs. It's funny though that this song's topic is about Mullen's lack of motivation and that definitely comes across musically albeit unintentionally I'm sure. The song just lacks any style that the band usually brings to their songs and overall, it's pretty forgettable. Let's hope this doesn't become the overall style of the band. 4/10 08. Race To The Heart Of The Sun: after the abysmal (Not-So-)High Time, we're great with some heavier guitars and Paul's voice once again. An instant improvement. The bounciness of this track is really well placed and some of the high notes Paul hits sound really good. Another catchy chorus with Rob joining Paul. This is a race to the heart of the sun' is yet another unforgettable line of the album and has a very high motivational factor to it and is quite optimistic in my opinion. Some of Rob's bass work in this track stand out to me quite a bit which is good as most of the time, I feel he takes a back seat on songs instrumentally. We exit the song with some very calming vocals which juxtapose the rest of the song quite nicely. Not much else can be said, good song. 8/10 09. Can I Take You Home: this is another one of my favourite songs on the album. I think the introduction riff is brilliant before in breaks into this real mover of a verse section. The drums, bass, synth and vocals flow brilliantly straight into a chorus where the guitar catches up and we're greeted with yet another good chorus before slipping back into the verse section again. The song just flows from section into section without pause for breath it seems. When we get to the interlude, I feel Paul's vocals are actually a little quiet unfortunately and therefore lack the power that I feel that the section needs. Especially because instrumentally, it's set up for something quite special in my opinion. Ah well, that aside, the song is pretty good and I particularly like the vibrato style effect on Paul's voice as the song breaks down with the intro riff once again. Nearly at the end of the album and it doesn't seem like the album is letting up. 8/10 10. Something Else: well hello, this track's a little different. Much closer to the sound of Not Accepted Anywhere, Something Else is a sadly short but equally adrenaline pumping song. This is the sort of song The Automatic's ex-keyboard player Alex Pennie should return for. Although having said that, there are actually some decent shouts and screams that accompany Paul's voice on this song which I assume were provided by Rob or James. The song just gets crazier and crazier before coming to a pretty abrupt stop, which is kind of a shame cos I really liked the track and felt it was a nod to the debut album and The Automatic's original sound. I can just imagine Alex yelping frantically in the background already. 9/10 11. Tear It Down: the final track. Let's go! Here, we're immediately greeted by quite a nice melodic guitar line over the bass which quickly gives way to an awesome synth and bass verse with Rob singing once again. It only seems fitting that he sings for the final track of the album, the lines tear it down, tear it down, tear it down and put it back the way we like' topping the list of awesome messages delivered by the band. The verses sound great and well written. The chorus is quite cool although not quite as strong as the other tracks' choruses. I may have already said this of another track but I feel it still applies here also. It's a shame as this song is quite short too but the ending to it feels well placed. It's a shame really because I feel that whilst it's an ok-ish ending. The album could have done with going off with a much bigger bang. Either way, really good album but not perfect. 7/10
Lyrics — 7
I've already touched on lyrics quite frequently throughout the review so far but let's wrap up all my comments thus far. Throughout the album the band cover many different topics lyrically. Insides talks of a relationship ending but not wanting to admit it's over, Interstate is a reflection of modern day American culture, Cannot Be Saved deals with the concept of paranoia and List talks of how in order for things to go well, sometimes things need to go wrong. Run and Hide is about seizing opportunities, despite not knowing if things will end well, Sweat Heat Noise deals with the band's live hiatus after the era of This Is A Fix, High Time deals with Paul's lack of motivation, Race to the Heart of the Sun talks of how mankind's progress is basically a series of collision, Can I Take You Home is about one of Paul's female encounters in Egypt, Something Else deals primarily with their influences as a band and Tear It Down describes getting out of a negative situation and shaping things to suit your own needs. So all in all, wide spectrums of topics are sung about although as I have also said during my review there can be points of lyrical confusion. The example I used before was how the line give me sweat, heat and noise and I'll give you the best of me' may conjure up sexual images for some. At times these lyrics aren't particularly clear either such as in Cannot Be Saved we hear of paranoia as Paul said to be the song's meaning but then we are hearing things of an army and such. Mostly, the lyrics are pretty strong with plenty of strong and memorable messages as I've said, but it's the little niggles that let the album down. I think all the lyrics are delivered well via the vocals of both Paul and Rob although one of my complaints is that I feel Paul, despite having quite a good voice, sings too many songs. Rob was the original lead singer but now is the main singer for 5 out of 11 songs, Paul singing the other 6. This was also the case with This Is A Fix, singing 8 or so and Paul singing 4. It just makes me feel that Paul is taking over, trying to shape the band into Yourcodenameis:Raoul (sorry for the poor Automatic pun). Either way, lyrics score well with me for their strength and delivery.
Overall Impression — 7
Out of all the three areas, I'm afraid this is where I must score the band down. Not because I dislike this CD because I like it but I feel the band is moving into an unsavoury place. The appearance of songs Insides and High Time make me feel that the band is starting to change into something that is on the complete opposite end of the scale from their first album and are close to not being The Automatic anymore and more some kind of twisted version of Paul Mullen's previous band. I don't hate his influence on the band as such, it's mainly just how he's arrived and suddenly the style of the band has changed. This change wasn't so noticeable with This Is A Fix but it's so much more apparent now. I'm hoping they're won't continue down this path but only time will tell. Moving on, everything else about this CD is brilliant, save for the two previously mentioned songs. I waited a long time for this CD and was very satisfied with my purchase and level of patience. The majority of songs return to the original Automatic formula which is brilliant and I think it sets the band up for a good next album if they decide to record another. I think impression via artwork and album presentation is slightly lower too however. The images on the CD cover and back as well as on the booklet are all pretty basic photo shop skills although the centre image between the booklet and CD is pretty good but it must be said, Paul doesn't seem to fit in. As my guitar teacher said, the rest of the band look as if they're the sort of guys who'll go to the pub and have a laugh and watch football where as Paul is the sort of artsy person who'd rather have a cocktail and mutter to himself how he's not of this world. Anyways, enough hating on Paul considering I really respect him as a vocalist, lyric writer and multi-instrumentalist. I hope you all enjoyed the review, thanks for reading.