Monday, November 10, 2008

Album: Autodrone - Strike A Match

Album: Strike a Match
Clairecords, 2008
Rating: ******* (7/10)

This isn't the first review I've done of New York four-piece Autodrone (see my live review here). That's partly just due to timing, and not really a creepy obsession on my part, but this band is definitely worth getting excited about.

Autodrone plays a heavy, dark shoegaze, with biting edges reminiscent of alternative metal and post-hardcore - imagine if Page Hamilton or Omar Rodriguez-Lopez played lead guitar for Lush. Though not cutting-edge, Autodrone stands apart from their peers in that all four members of this band are true musicians, evidenced by the relentless complexity of Strike a Match.

The album starts out with the dense, guitar-driven title track which takes all of its spirit from the dark pop of the 1980's and all of its sound from the guitar rock of the early 90's. While the opening track is somewhat limited in its power, the band uses this blueprint on several of the subsequent songs with more success. "Final Days" stands out as an example, featuring some of Katherine Kennedy's most compelling vocals, from her tense, driving monotone in the song's opening bars to her passionate, wailing chorus.

I'm a stickler for songs, so I feel compelled to report that several tracks on the album are filler. But while I won't endorse this, these tracks (primarily "100,000 Years of Revenge" and "Rose Has No Teeth") actually do add to the cohesiveness of the record, making it a true album with a unifying vision, not just a scattered collection of songs. And the instrumental sonic experimentation of "Moth of July" is just plain beautiful.

The order of tracks on the album left me a little uncomfortable, with the album's most upbeat numbers falling at tracks 10 and 11. I think I would have liked to see these songs a bit earlier on, where they could have broken up the near-formulaic similarities of the earlier tracks. But placing these songs at the end does add a concept-album-esque arc to the album, bringing an unsettling and dark journey to a warm and comforting close. If that was the intention, it falls a little short with better transition needed (the major keys seem a little jarring at first), but at the very least, it's interesting.

The stand-out track on the album is, without a doubt, "Sometime." The song, propelled by Dennis Lehrer's rumbling toms, emerges out of a beautiful cloud of sound. Jeremy Alisauskas's always superb guitar truly shines here. Sparkling gently in the verse, it swells to a roar and then bursts into a frantic and beautifully-executed prog-metal riff throughout the chorus.

Though far from perfect, Strike a Match proves Autodrone to be a band of remarkable skill and great promise. They have what it takes to make it big, so keep an eye on them in 2009.

Strike a Match hits the shelves tomorrow. Autodrone is also throwing a release party this Thursday at the Annex, so if you can wait an extra two days to get your hands on this, you can grab your copy there.

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