|The Automatic/Straight Lines/Eric Unseen - Cardiff, Barfly - March 31st 2010|
|Written by David Whistance|
|Monday, 12 April 2010 06:00|
Whilst I was still recovering from the brutal assault on my eardrums from the previous night, courtesy of Australian bad boys Airbourne, it was a gig showcasing some pretty fine Welsh talent that forced me to brave the gale force winds and rain and venture to Cardiff's Barfly...and boy am I glad I did.
Firstly I have to apologise to opening act Gwent's Eric Unseen for missing the first half of their set, but I don't think the band were too worried I wasn't there as they appeared to have the crowd eating out of their hands when I arrived at the bar. Their infectious indie rock numbers winning over the crowd with ease, helped by the band's great stage presence, and the impromptu cover of Lady Ga Ga's hit 'Bad Romance' by Dan and Rhys whilst they overcame some minor technical difficulties proved these bunch of young hopefuls have a bright future ahead of them.
Next up are The Automatic's current touring partners on their seven-week UK trek, Pontypridd's Straight Lines. Proving that whilst the media constantly hone in on the Welsh Valleys, focussing on the negativity, there are far more positive angles to concentrate on as evidenced in the burgeoning Welsh music scene over the last decade.
In baby faced frontman Tom Watkins they have a great vocalist with an almost Geddy Lee vocal style, mixed with their perfect indie/pop/ rock material, showcasing numbers from their debut album 'Persistence In This Game'.
Whilst I didn't feel they had the stage prescence of the other two bands here tonight, they certainly delivered the tunes, and the only thing that could improve their set is an almighty cover of At The Drive In's 'One Armed Scissor', and cue The Automatic's Paul Mullen who helps deliver a blistering version of said number that helps me dispel all those regrets at missing At The Drive In all those years ago when they cancelled their Cardiff University gig at the eleventh hour.
As everybody is probably aware of, The Automatic have suffered a turbulent couple of years, whilst they had a major hit with their musical albatross 'Monster', their keyboard player/screamer Pennie decided to quit, effectively splitting their fan base in two, and I have to be completely honest and say that I was in the camp that wrongly believed they would suffer musically by the loss. A thought that was quickly dismissed when they recruited the talent that is Paul Mullen into the camp, after witnessing a storming gig at the Point I realised that it was The Automatic part two for me. As when The Automatic recruited the former lead singer of Newcastle alternative rockers Your Code Name Is Milo (another highly underrated British rock act), they turned the band from a good pop/rock band into a fantastic pop/rock band.
Following the release of the hugely underrated 'This Is A Fix' that disappeared commercially due to the lack of promotion by the record company's promotion team, and a two year battle of musical politics they have returned with their self produced album 'Tear The Signs Down.'
Whilst the band's audience has become more selective, the band themselves have grown musically. With a set peppered with new numbers from said new album (which I have to admit to not having heard before tonight, but I will be ordering myself a copy pretty quickly), the band concentrate on their last album 'This Is A Fix', which is a joy to behold as I have this on heavy rotation on my iPod.
I've always adored the vocal style of Robin Hawkins so when it is paired up with another of my favourite vocalists in Paul Mullen, they transport me to musical ecstasy. Oh and for all those who miss the demented screams of Pennie needn't worry as guitarist Frost emulates those screams with ease. As an end of tour treat we are given an off the cuff cover of INXS's 'New Sensation', played with astonishing vigour, not witnessed since the early days of the band they covered.
As they end the set with the storming sing-along of 'Steve McQueen', the band don animal masks for an impromptu musical jam that conjures up nightmare visions of 'The Wicker Man'.
All in all whilst The Automatic may not be the biggest band in Wales right now, they most certainly remain one of the best!