"Short Term Manifesto" (Album, 2007) !DSO Recommended!
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 your 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 (and faintly Bolan-like) 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; but then I'm also perked up by the often feedbacking guitar work that crops up throughout the album. 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 (January 2008)
"Roots of Autons" (Promo, 2005)
In biography terms, Autons have one of the best origin stories going. The band members met auditioning to be extras in the revived Doctor Who series. Failing in their aim of playing Autons (the show's killer showroom dummies) they instead decided to form a band named after their beloved Who adversaries. Of course, it could all be PR nonsense (especially judging from the vintage of some of these compositions), but it's just such an irresistably appealing story that I don't really care if it's true or not.
The Hampshire based three piece cite an intruiging combination of influences from early Roxy Music and Piper At The Gates of Dawn era Pink Floyd all presented through a fondness for the UK electro pop underground scene. The results are, to put it plainly, impressively accomplished. The Pink Floyd connection may be apparent, but it's Autons' own remarkable talents for songwriting that mean they stand head and shoulders above most around them in terms of maturity and inventiveness. They won't be to everyone's taste but they will appeal far more widely than my words can do them justice and I don't hesitate to recommend them. 7/10
Rob Dyer (February 2006)