The second album from Los Angeles post-punk trio Automatic takes a look at the current state of the world, and how we got here, through concepts inspired by classic dystopian science fiction. Opener "New Beginning" depicts a scenario where multi-billionaires uproot and depart from the planet on spaceships, in an attempt to find an inhabitable world after Earth's resources have been depleted. The song expresses the uncertainty of not knowing whether the goal is even possible, yet charging ahead anyway because the only other option is to perish along with the rest of humanity. Starting off slow, the tempo quickly rockets up, as the skeletal dance-punk rhythm gets shocked by synth lightning bursts. "Skyscraper" has a much more relaxed beat, which becomes blanketed by layers of siren-like synths and dubby echo, while the lyrics comment on the pointlessness of the day-to-day work cycle. "Venus Hour" has lyrics about the pros and cons of feminine desire, set to a taut ESG-like rhythm dusted with off-beat effects. "Automaton" sounds like a more stripped-down, robotic version of Le Tigre's new wave disco-punk. "Teen Beat" stands out for its frequent usage of a sharp, startling laughter sample, transforming it from a sudden eruption of joy into something detached, fractured, and stuck in the machine, far removed from the emotion of its original context. The album's most urgent moment is fittingly titled "NRG," and nearly every element of the song is ecstatic, from the crunchy drums to the shouted lyrics that deal with finding one's self while gaining more of a public profile as a member of an emerging band. "Turn Away" is far less frenetic, and its tone seems comforting, understanding, and perhaps a bit apologetic, ultimately choosing to look forward rather than become trapped in a state of hopelessness.
by Paul Simpson