Autons - "Short Term Manifesto"
It's appropriate that this first album from Autons is distributed in part by Cambridge fanzine/label Repeat as there is definitely something of punk's 'just do it' ethic about Autons and their music; and few things encapsulate punk like a black and white phococopied fanzine. But the 'punk' label here is strictly limited. 'Ethical pop punk' is more like what Autons are up to on Short Term Manifesto - the title perhaps a dig at the cynical politicking of governments around the globe to the issue of climate change? The ethical dimension coming from the fact that green issues are one of the motivators behind Auton's songwriting (reflected too in the official contact address for the band which lies hidden in something called 'The Sustainability Centre' somewhere in England) - though you'd be hard pressed to know that just from listening to their songs. Do not fear. This is no dreary collection of preachy hippy drivel. Hey, if it's good enough for Coldplay to be green and pleasant but earn plenty of the greenback at the same time - then why not profit from you world-hugging messages? - fine by me!
However, you can have too much of a good thing so it's good news that alongside environmental issues the band feel equally driven to write songs about cult TV and horror flicks too (The Devil In Me, It's A Strange Thing and Words She Said). The style of the album varies from Marc Bolan-esque glam of It's A Strange Thing, that just drips with 70s arrangements and instrumentation, through the raw punching guitars and percussion of first single Snakes (voted second in last year's Festive Fifty), and onto their second single, the slow, soulful ballad Firebird; all of which are carried by David Auton's unique and often quirky voice. Meanwhile, Spartacus lifts the distinctive melody from OMD's Red Frame, White Light and legitimately makes it their own. I've a personal soft spot for the beautiful Different Eyes, a clever combination of soul-bearing emotion, addictive sequencing and momentous backing synths. It's a bit of an odd assortment, a collection of individually distinctive songs for sure, but perhaps only lacking a sense of cohesion that would make it truly great. Something a touch more development and a well-chosen producer for their second album should help with, but as a debut, Short Term Manifesto offers plenty of moments worth savouring. 8/10
Rob Dyer http://www.dso.co.uk/