A fellow music lover recently said something that put all of my past and future arguments with non-music people into a succinct package. We were discussing the quantity of music that we listen to. Sometimes I feel I don’t give records I love enough play because I’m always listening to something new. My friend’s reply was perfect. “The more you listen to, the less chance you have of being bowled over by something mediocre.” It’s a simple enough statement, and one that I probably already inherently knew, but it was insightful to hear it aloud. As with anything having to do with the arts, the more you study, the more you can distinguish.
Autolux is a band I would have loved ten years ago. Heck, even five years ago I would have thought they were cool.
That’s not to say that Autolux is not cool. They exude coolness in a way that most of us never will. The record sounds great, recorded by T Bone Burnett, a man who knows how to create a mood. Carla Azar’s drums echo throughout the CD, sounding as if she is playing as hard as she can in a tunnel — which is meant as a compliment. Greg Edwards provides guitar lines that are a study of control and timing. Eugene Goreshter makes bass playing a stand-out art form, a rare find in rock and roll.
The vocals are detached in just about every song, leaving the impression that these folks are perhaps reading a great book — or just bored — while singing. This works to great effect in “Great Days For the Passenger Element”, when Goreshter sings, “We don’t know what side we’re on / Dreaming with our heads cut off”. The song meanders its way through to the end, using a dark, hypnotic melody that brings to mind a lullaby sung by a sedated psychotic. In fact, the one song where the vocals sound attached to the person, “Subzero Fun”, ends up the least memorable on the CD, sounding like something off of a Dream Academy record. That’s the only atmospheric slip, though. The rest of the CD belies a myriad of hip influences, from Sonic Youth to the Jesus and Mary Chain, from Slowdive to Ride.
I guess that’s where the problem lies. As a fan of the bands that seem to have influenced Autolux, I can’t really hear what Autolux has added to the game. I kept rooting for them as I listened. And listened. I figured that if I played the CD enough times, it would hit me. The depth would show itself and I would find for myself a new band to love. But it never happened. The best compliment I can give is that I greatly look forward to their next record, assuming that the map they’ve laid out here will pay off down the road.
Autolux is the band that we Pavement and Pastels lovers in the mid-’90s were hoping Garbage would be. Marry the slow, intense power of shoegazers with the loud, visceral power of Nirvana. The problem is that this is running about a decade too late. The kids today have every right to tout Autolux as one of their new favorites. I would not deny them that. Whenever I’ve put on the CD, I’ve had no desire to take it off. It’s just that it doesn’t contain enough to make it stick. I put it on because I have to review it, and that’s it. It’s a great soundtrack to buying the perfect pair of jeans, or reading a Chuck Palahniuk novel, or figuring out what color to dye your hair. I’m just not in the right target-market for the band. The younger generation can put it on their iPods and dream of an Autolux song emotionally propelling them forward in a great action movie based on a videogame. Me, I’m going to end this by putting on a Spiritualized record and sitting down to pay the bills.