Thursday, March 01, 2007

I found a band, a special new band

Autokat - Seven Years
Autokat - The Driver

Paul Morley wrote a good article in last month’s edition of the excellent Observer Music Monthly . Despite being one of my favourite ever writers, I often find his prose somewhat impenetrable – words for words sake - and struggle to stumble on the point he is trying to make. This time I followed his train of thought, under the heading, “I found a band just the other day, a special new band”, through to the last full stop. The gist of it was how everything new is talked up these days, to the extent that when you eventually get to hear whatever it is that is being written about with such “steamed-up praise”, you actually wonder what the fuss was all about. It’s not the life-changing experience you were lead to believe it was going to be, it’s just another band, making music that you’ll probably listen to a few times, before forgetting about it and moving onto the next hip thing.

He laid part of the blame for this at the feet of bloggers like myself, observing that, “there is so much blog-illuminated new music of such definite competence… and so many enthusiasts writing about this new music, needing to demonstrate that they are the first to find it, and make a claim for its magnificent, idiosyncratic freshness.” A fair enough point to make, and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this in the time since I started writing, though I stand by most of the guff that I’ve belched forth. In my defence, I have sometimes deliberately avoided adding to the mountain of superlatives floating around the internet by not writing about the next big thing, even if, as was the case with Beirut, I truly believed listening to the album could make a positive difference to your general well-being.

Morley advocates restraint, asking that we “shave off a star or two here and there, to control our initial excitement, to keep our thoughts to ourselves until we are absolutely sure”, which again, is not that misguided a notion, though hard to ever see happening. The music industry is bizarre in how reliant it is on up-front promotion, with the buzz about a particular artist often happening so far in advance of the release of the actual album that you’re thoroughly sick of it before it is physically available to buy from the shops. It’s rare you get a ‘sleeper’ act these days; a band that break through without being hideously overexposed in the process, or as Morley puts it, “one of those things (that) creeps up on you, and become a little more special.”

Perhaps Autokat can do it. Their debut album, ‘Late Night Shopping’ is due out on March 5th 2007, and the blog fraternity at large aren’t exactly frothing at the mouth in anticipation of its release. This is no bad thing, as you will be able to stumble upon them without ridiculous expectations, and with any luck, like me, you’ll be suitably blown away. I am treading carefully now, not wanting to ruin it by blurting out a steady stream of hyperbole that backs up Morley’s theory, though seeing as there’s precious few words being written about them, maybe I am allowed to wax somewhat lyrical. I first came across Autokat via the joyous ‘The Driver’ (which features on the album), with it’s zen-like mantra ‘To learn, to live, to love…’ , on an Akoustik Anarkhy compilation. aA are a proper old school indie label in the process of developing a strong identity, and Autokat have stuck with them for the release of this accomplished debut. The Guardian Guide described Autokat as, “…like Bloc Party, but without the earnest wibbly-wobbly worrying” and this is a fair summation. I’m all for a bit of angst, but Kele seems to have tied himself in knots to the point where all the joy has been sucked out of the music. Luckily, Autokat avoid this, throwing down dark, angular post-punk guitar pop for the mind and feet, with an absence of posturing that is rather refreshing. They don’t act like they’re reinventing the wheel, they’re not attention seeking, they’re just doing what they do and what they do is damn fine.

The album features all three singles released so far, along with two of the b-sides (the only one missing is ‘Television’, flip-side of ‘The Driver’ and it's a big miss), plus a couple of brooding instrumentals à la fellow Mancs the Longcut, and a handful of new tracks. The best of these is probably ‘Bowling’, which inexplicably sounds like Chapterhouse with it’s mix of crackling distortion and gentle acoustic guitars, crossed with I Am Kloot. The song appears to be about ten-pin bowling, though that’s probably a metaphor for something else entirely. There’s something about ‘Late Night Shopping’ that reminds me of U2’s debut album ‘Boy’ in places. Mainly in its mix of choppy new-wave guitars and chiming effects-laden riffs which are reminiscent of the Edge, but there’s also a charming naivety about the whole package which was present in the Dublin quartet’s early recordings before the bombast took over. So maybe not my favourite new band, and not the best thing you’ve ever heard, but definitely worth your time, your money and your appreciation.

‘Late Night Shopping’ is released by Akoustik Anarkhy on 5th March 2007. Pre-order the album from Norman Records

Autokat website
Autokat My Space
Akoustik Anarkhy website
Paul Morley at Wikipedia