Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Heaven knows I'm not so miserable now


A performance poet appearing between sets. A raffle and tombola. A square of astroturf for picnicing on. Autons just don't do your average gig.

Feeling Gloomy is the weekly club night brainchild of two individuals going under the names of Leonard and Cliff, and the Gloom Aid festival at which Autons are playing today is a pre-club night event in aid of Depression Alliance.

By the time we arrive shortly before 8pm, we've unfortunately already missed several bands. Bristol foursome You & The Atom Bomb have not long taken to the stage, and it's not long before I'm very glad we didn't miss them too. They're a splendidly chaotic band that call to mind The Go! Team in the sheer number of different ideas they pack into each song, but musically they're more reminiscent of the dearly departed Dismemberment Plan, a post-punk energy and effervescence allied with a playfulness, an eagerness to experiment with form and a post-modern pop sensibility. A mini-album called Shake Shake Hello?! is coming out on Sink & Stove at the beginning of July, and if you, like me, were a sucker for Travis Morrison's crew then you'd be well advised to check it out.

After the performance poet's last slot of the night (he goes under the moniker The Bro's Grim, appropriately enough), Hertfordshire's My Passion set about depressing most of us further, if only because their youthfulness reminds us of our own age. Currently rather more of a concept than a fully-formed band, the quintet have the name (a bit gothy, a bit angsty) and the look - Duran Duran for the teenage Kerrang! reader of 2006 (think perfectly triangular fringes, make-up and black ties) - but the songs are lagging a little way behind. Not that their bevy of bouncing ballgown-clad young ladyfans are bothered (or the legions of people to have found their way to their MySpace page), and as other bands have proven, exquisitely chiselled cheekbones can get you a long way - though perhaps only so far.

By the time headliners Autons appear, the Sixth Form Leaver's Ball directly in front of the stage has by and large dispersed (though some stay on to shake their thang), and the crowd forms something of a semi-circle. I feel rather like a cricketer in a fielding cordon, Portsmouth's finest smashing out corker after corker for our ears to catch.

Like You & The Atom Bomb, drummerless electro-rock trio Autons come with the Steve Lamacq and Rob da Bank seal of approval and possess (or are possessed by) something of the same maverick spirit. 'Conspiracy Theory' is a risky opener, building as it does slowly though inexorably to a tremendous finale - "Don't wanna go to hell! / Don't wanna go to heaven! / Don't wanna end my life on a 747!" are lyrics that are crying out to be hollered by more than just the three Autons. To then plough straight into the short sharp shock of airwave-bothering genius single 'Snakes' so early into the set is also potentially risky, but in the event it simply marks a confidence in their material, and the possible lull never materialises.

Instead, the beats get faster and more frenetic, David Jones's serene falsetto juxtaposed incongruously and yet somehow perfectly over the top. 'Class Traitor' and 'Ice Major' sandwich 'Shine Tester, Shine Tester', before 'What She Said' brings things to a premature close. Well, I say premature, but it's perfectly judged if the old adage "Leave 'em wanting more" is to be believed.

Watch out for Autons' first appearance in NME this week (in the Radar section, I think). During tonight's gig one song is dedicated to Matt Taylor whose late, late penalty earlier in the afternoon gave the band's beloved Pompey a vital win in their fight against relegation. It seems like it's promotion to the Premiership that Autons have got to look forward to.

The night doesn't end there, either. In fact, it's yet young. Plenty of time for the raffle to be entered (first prize: a signed Moz poster - I'm still waiting to hear), the 'Rock Profiles' DVD to be won on the tombola, the DJ to take over, house "air band" (ie not just air guitar, air everything) The Miserabilists to take to the stage and much more hideously overpriced Grolsch to be drunk. Jolly good cheer, all told.


Autons interview for R*E*P*E*A*T fanzine

Autons' MySpace page


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