The Automatic, Viva Machine, Attack Attack

Edmund Townend 29/04/2008

Under threat of closure, The Point inhaled a last gasp of Welsh music before it (like the wonderful Cardiff Coal Exchange which now has heartbreakingly been converted into luxury flats - for people with far too much money to have a soul…) undergoes a horrible and agonising death (not blaming anyone in any way - Cardiff County Council, well done electoral majority!). However, I did not attend this gig just to bemoan the declining number of beautiful venues in Cardiff, oh no. I came to witness the glorious rise of local band (no, not that one) Attack Attack…

After visiting an American studio to record their debut album last year (much like Leeds band Vessels who are playing a GIITTV night this month - yes blatant plug, they are completely dissimilar), the band aim to build up a riotous fan base by supporting such a big Welsh name and touring later this year. With help from Lostprophets and including vocals from their frontman Ian Watkins, their style has been well structured combining complex musical structure with incredibly catchy pop songs. However, they carry no faux pop sound in the way of synthesizers and rip out a new texture of style with excellent thumping drums and powerful bass. The two vocalists of the band mirror and contrast at will, creating a brilliant dynamic that didn't quite work with The Automatic's original line-up. Their songwriting skill strays nowhere near the abstract concepts of The Automatic (writing about monsters, what are you, 6?) and the ever so popular emo style commonly found in similar Welsh bands. 'Honesty' is a brutally - uh - honest representation of realisation and astonishment where as 'Lights Out' portrays wistfulness and nostalgia. Both of these concepts seem intellectual, but that's just the way I interpret them. Their lyrics are accented by brilliant instrumentals from all members and their live presence is full of vigour. Attack Attack are another excellent example of brilliant music attempting to escape the Cardiff music scene.

Viva Machine, Swansea locals, however seem slightly more manufactured. They appear to have made a seamless transition from the dying pop group set up to the screaming-fan-drawing emo rock scene. Unlike the 'butts' and characteristic Valleys' accents of Attack Attack, Viva Machine appear to be quintessentially non-Welsh. However, manufactured as they might be (I'm not saying they are necessarily pieced together - they just seem it) they still put on a good show and their music spikes through a cynic's first impression. The charismatic falsetto-leaning lead singer bounds around the stage from mic to synths, his brilliant voice is enough to make the screaming audience tolerable. They create a strange sound for the Ziggy Stardust inspired 'Death Star Trucker', an epic sound derived from similar inspirations it seems; their MySpace declares that they are “LIGHT DARK SLOW FAST HAPPY SAD GLO SPACE ROCK”. See what I mean? With each drumbeat, they pound an omniscient sense of control over the baying crowd. Their strange sound began to play on my mind, however. Each song builds up to a seemingly explosive chorus, yet, it is subdued somewhat. Despite their MySpace proclaiming that they're only inspired by “light, sound, Coors and space” (very Ziggy Stardust) their subdued style makes the At the Drive-In fan in me restless. If only they would break free and go all out, but no, every chorus in every song holds back. Even if their instrumental breaks hold me on the edge of insane dance frenzy, it's still too controlled and restricted. If or when they rip out of these confines, they could or will be brilliant. Await with baited breath, like they seem to be doing.

And so, it seems with so many gigs nowadays, the support acts display more interest than the headliners. The Automatic, thankfully, aren't still the soulless indie band that left reviewers in 2006 screaming for release. Their new stuff is mildly interesting in its lack of mainstream restraint. They even seem to regret their past - looking strained whilst playing their oh-so popular hit 'Monster' and flashing annoyance when their mics are cut for the audience to yell the repetitive tagline at the top of their lungs. Still, besides this strange event, they do enjoy themselves playing through their new material. Their new addition (replacing the old 'screaming retard', as colloquially put by a music appreciating friend of mine) seems to have an even more psychotic, but growing enigmatic quality which is interesting to watch over the mind-numbing boredom of album-tracks no one but die-hard fans know the words to. Despite what many people believe The Automatic to be - boring mainstream drivel - their new album shows potential and triumph. Is this the dawning of a new interest in Welsh music? Well, it'd be nice… let's see what album number two holds.

(Photo by Stellar Spontaneous Photography)