Clarions and Banners

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AllMusic Review by Daphne Carr

It's hard to ignore the similarities between Automaton's Pat Kearney's voice and that of Ian MacKaye. His warm, semi-off-key sing-speech bursts into screams that are accompanied by single-note guitar melodies doubled with a distortion background, making a late-'90s Fugazi comparison apt. "Open up Amnesia" is just that, a song that meanders smartly through sparse drum and vocal spots only to build into a din of well-constructed noise. It's good -- great even -- but hardly the first time that the technique has been used or done well. When Serena Virago's cello comes in on "USS Therapy," the Fugazi thing starts getting positively eerie. "Meet My Father, John Wayne" opens with a dirge bass and atmospheric, discordant guitar which combines for a Girls Against Boys-style darkness with noise bursts akin more to early Blonde Redhead. "HeyHeyHeyHey" straight-up lifts a Sonic Youth riff, turns it straight into a party chorus, pauses, then kicks back for two minutes and 12 seconds of mindless, pick-slide noise rock. It's the album's "Hot Wire My Heart" -- a possibly unintentional tribute to Thurston Moore and the gang -- and thus the pilfering understandable. A solid release, Clarions and Banners doesn't stray too far from its influences while repackaging well the very things that made those bands great. Sometimes, however, it's the quirks that make one really love a band, and Automaton is decidedly lacking in those.

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