Thursday, April 17, 2008

Autumns CD review

The Autumns
Fake Noise From a Box of Toys
(World’s Fair/Bella Union)

By George A. Paul

In these days of digital download dominance, a CD cover isn’t as important as it used to be. Yet the artwork can still offer hints about an artist’s creative direction. Fake Noise from a Box of Toys, The Autumns’ fourth full-length effort, is a good example. The street graffiti-inspired image by noted Orange County, Calif. painter Aaron Kraten is quite edgy and different than some elegant covers used in the past. A similar jarring effect comes from the band’s newly abrasive sonic textures.

When the Los Angeles quintet emerged with debut disc The Angel Pool in 1997, it owed a stylistic debt to such English dream pop and shoegaze acts as My Bloody Valentine, Lush and Cocteau Twins. Glistening guitar sounds were wrapped around atmospheric tunes that frequently stretched past the six-minute mark

Former Cocteau bassist/producer Simon Raymonde helped The Autumns expand their sound on 2000’s In the Russet Gold of This Vain Hour, which topped the college radio charts and received airplay on both commercial alt-rock stations and MTV. The band scored music for a 2004 documentary (“Searching for Angela Shelton”) and garnered critical praise for another album that year.

Originally released last fall on Raymonde’s U.K. label, Fake Noise finds The Autumns crafting more immediate songs than before. “Boys” comes off like a noisy cross between Thrice and Muse, especially when frontman Matthew Kelly’s dramatic falsetto kicks in. “Glass Jaw” proves equally intense and “Clem” opens with crunchy guitars before transitioning into a gorgeous melody. A languid Sigur Ros vibe envelops “Midnight Knock” and an ominous “Night Music” (complete with jazzy breakdown). Both are highlights here.

On “Uncle Slim” and epic closer “Oh My Heart,” the frenzied triple guitar assault recalls “Mellon Collie”-era Smashing Pumpkins, while Kelly’s high voice meshes well with female backing vocals during the chiming “Beautiful Boot.” Old fans might be surprised by the beefier sound, but The Autumns should gain plenty of new admirers with this solid effort. Grade: B

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