The Automatic – This Is A Fix

The ‘difficult second album’ cliché is perhaps even worse when a band’s first album is criticised for tracks sounding the same. The Automatic should have been able to rectify that problem by replacing keyboardist Pennie with Paul Mullen from Yourcodenameis:Milo, but sadly the jury is still out after ‘This is a Fix’.
The band never really recovers from a poor start, in all honesty. If you thought their atrocious cover of Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger’ was their lowest ebb, think again: opener ‘Responsible Citizen is little more than an advert for the 24-hour drinking culture, but is so abysmal that it promotes sobriety more than any government campaign could hope for.
Recent single ‘Steve McQueen’ is a rare positive moment, and even that is no better than the stronger tracks on ‘Not Accepted Anywhere.’ Still, whatever you think of their debut album, it is difficult to argue that the change of direction on ‘This is a Fix’ constitutes an improvement.

Gone are the inventive lyrics of tracks like Raoul, as The Automatic now seem unable to marry strong musical performances with lyrics of comparable quality. The result is frustrating tracks like ‘Secret Police’, which are so close to being impressive that you begin to feel sorry that the band couldn’t find that one missing element to transform it from average to great.
The same cannot be said for the attempts to add a greater steel to the band’s sound. Both the title track and the ambitious ‘Bad Guy’ show a desire to impose more aggression on proceedings, but they are about as convincing as when Charlie from Busted formed Fightstar. The more laid back efforts on the album, such as the absorbing ‘In the Mountains’, represent the album’s best moments, but the band struggles to sustain one particular sound throughout each track. It’s not so much an identity crisis as a resistance to experimentation.

The Automatic will hopefully learn from the experience of their second album and discover what sound works for them as a band. Sadly, any attempt to celebrate this album as anything more than a stepping stone will most likely fall on deaf ears.

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