Before reviewing Autogramm’s third full-length album, Music That Humans Can Play, it’s worth saying a few words about the band. If you’re like me and this is the first time you are hearing about them, you’re probably already guessing what kind of music they make. Let me tell you, your guesses are likely off the mark. Based on their social media, Autogramm is a band that mixes synths and power pop. They’re a quartet from Seattle, Chicago, and Vancouver, influenced by artists like David Bowie, Gary Numan, The Boys, Prince, and more. Reading that, I thought I had a grasp on what to expect—I’m a fan of 80s music. However, I don’t think I really knew what I was in for.
The album opens with a catchy, light, fun melody, heavy on synth. Listening to it, I couldn’t help but imagine myself on a sunny beach during a scorching summer day, basking in the gentle breeze as I unwind to the nostalgic tunes playing in the background. I found myself repeatedly drawn back to this track. It’s a perfect blend of laid-back electronic sensations with the punch of more powerful rock guitar riffs.
Listening to the next few songs, I couldn’t stop thinking about all those iconic artists of the 80s, like Tears for Fears, Chris Isaak, Simple Minds, Soft Cell, and Eurythmics. That vocal layering that is typical for new wave is so well executed that at some points I could have sworn I was tuned in to an authentic 80s band.
Moreover, I detected echoes of classic rock’n’roll and laid-back beach rock vibes reminiscent of the 60s. The first half of the album gave me strong Beach Boys vibes, in addition to the synth pop feel of the 80s.
However, the more I listened to the album, the more I realized the music was gradually shifting in a heavier punk direction. The vocals, starting clean, moved to a grittier timbre, reminiscent of Joey Ramone’s signature style. Not only that, but the guitar arrangements adopted those simple patterns that made the Ramones famous.
What further intrigued me was the fusion of these nostalgic melodies with more modern punk rock influences, such as Blink 182 and Green Day. As startled as I was with this progression, somehow, it really made sense to me. And despite the stylistic diversity, there is one thing all these songs have in common – the incorporation of funky synth elements interwoven with more robust guitar riffs.
If you’re into 80s and are looking for a band to take you on a musical journey, you might want to check these guys out. But having said all that, I must admit that my interest started to fade as I approached the latter half of the album. I don’t know if all these different elements became slightly overwhelming or if the tracks themselves progressively got weaker. The final song, in particular, struck me as somewhat forgettable, though its closing credits-like quality did seem fitting, in an odd way.
It did, however, make me want to rewatch “The Breakfast Club”, so I think I know what I’ll be doing tonight.