THE AUTUMN KILLERS – Acoustic And Autumnised EP

The Autumn Killers may have been new a new name on the rock scene for 2020, but the band’s core members were already veterans of the UK rock scene. Vocalist Rob Reece had previously been a member of Swivelhead, 91BC and his eponymously named Reece, and guitarist Duncan Richardson had twenty years experience as a session musician. You’d think, given the amount of hard yards the duo had already put in, that their debut EP ‘Dance Floor Mayhem’ would have sounded like the work of a professional band. Unfortunately, its songs – in addition to being hampered by a demo quality production and a drum machine that sounded like a plastic tub being hit with a stick – were plodding, uninspired and hopelessly clichéd. ‘Chains’ – a song about “a relationship that felt like being in chains” – chugged along as if a bunch of beginners were experiencing their first studio booking and hammering out an old Black Keys tune in a lumpen manner; ‘I Don’t Mind’ attempted something of a groove, but ultimately sounded like an average pub band paying tribute to the 90s and, worse still, the title track failed to garner any real excitement, sounding like a plodding version of The Cult with no real passion. At its best, the EP could be called unpolished; at its worst, you might even find it falling somewhere between boring and terrible.

The band waved goodbye to an especially difficult 2020 by releasing ‘Acoustic And Autumnised’, an EP which – as its title suggests – reworks that EP’s material in a stripped down format. Perhaps since the full electric version had been let down by a poor mix and a lack of energy, hearing the songs in more of a relaxed manner would give more of an insight into the material itself – perhaps even show that something had been lost in translation? Nope. When played acoustically, these songs are still unbelievably dull. They may not be as ploddy, but they’re still dull. To add insult to injury, The Autumn Killers even manage to wreck simple acoustic arrangements by drowning them under a mass of badly played, droning synths. The results are…painful.

To begin with, the opening riff of ‘Chains’ shows a little promise when nylon sounding strings play a simple but distinctive riff, while a sliding bass sound fleshes out the arrangement. However, after about eight seconds, things take a dive when a rudimentary drum machine sound plods through a marching beat and several synth chords don’t even seem to fit the basic melodic structure. Worse still, without any kind of loudness as a distraction, it is obvious that Rob is a terrible singer. His flat and sluggish delivery shows off one of the worst rock voices ever and a couple of shouty backing vocals on the chorus are so devoid of tunefulness, it’s actually embarrassing. ‘Dance Floor Killers’ works a repeated bass drum beat, over which synths approximating strings flesh out something of a vague melody. On top of something that sounds no more interesting than a working demo, Rob croons and shouts, barely hitting any right notes, often sounding like a drunk man on a karaoke machine. By the time he stretches his voice to tackle the chorus, it’s clear the vocal range he’s chosen is beyond his limited talent. The full electric version was lumpy, but this is seldom more than a tuneless dirge. Apparently, with this recording, the band feel that they’ve come up with something “bridging the gap between dance and rock”. Even applied to the full electric version, this is a ridiculous claim: the beats are delivered at a sullen mid pace; the vocals are about as far away from euphoric or uplifting as you’ll find. This is merely a couple of middle aged guys clinging onto a dream of being rock stars…and failing miserably.

‘I Don’t Mind’ is potentially a little better since it boasts an intro that sounds vaguely like The Killers, but this is spoilt by Rob talking over it like a cheesy lounge singer addressing a crowd. Moving into the verse, there’s a pleasing descending melody played on the guitar, but its so low in the mix, you’ll have to really strain your ears to get the best from it, and this is especially the case once Rob starts to sing. “Hey little girl come and knock my door / Shake your hair like you did before” he wails as if revisiting 1982, all the while struggling to hold onto a basic melody. Here, he shows himself to rival Sacrilege’s Bill Beadle as not only one of Britain’s most awful rock voices but as a cringe inducing lyricist. By a minute and a half in, the track really starts to drag, and by the time it reaches the supposedly rousing “yeah, yeah” hook, on this semi-acoustic version, it sounds like Rob is using that as a guide lyric until he can think of something to fill the hole. As with its electric counterpart, the only glimmer of real interest comes from an instrumental bridge that sounds like the soundtrack for a retro spy thriller. Unfortunately, it’s hard to give The Autumn Killers any real credit for that, as it’s very clearly a John Barry rip-off… ‘Fight’, meanwhile, fills four minutes with a reasonably moody melody, only to be quashed by another unrestrained wail – best avoided all round – and, representing the last dregs of re-recorded EP material, ‘Wait A Minute’ unveils glimmers of hope with a low-key intro that’s transposed from the original’s boring rock to sounding like an old Smashing Pumpkins melody. Predictably, the show’s over once Reece starts to sing, but if you can somehow manage to ignore him (probably for the best), this minimalist arrangement is home to a pleasing piano line that often suggests something cinematic. It’s a great shame it couldn’t have been put to better use.

As if most of that wasn’t bad enough, you can also witness The Autumn Killers absolutely wrecking Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’. The original version boasts one of the most gorgeous melodies, and the band have wisely clung onto that as best as they can. Still, it’s hard to put a new spin on something that very much sounds like an old karaoke backing track or royalty free muzak for supermarkets. Beyond that, things are far worse. The first verse doesn’t scan as well as it should due to Rob over-singing (not a good idea); the chorus includes some horrible notes delivered at full volume and the line about the “hooded claw” is home to a note so bad, it will definitely make you wince. The least said about this the better, quite honestly.

It’s not often that a recording comes along that makes you feel really genuinely embarrassed for the band and the people paid to promote them, but ‘…Autumnised’ really is that bad. Rarely has the semi-acoustic format been any less suitable for a band. This is utterly unforgiving on every level: it exposes weak vocals and weak arrangements. It draws attention to appalling and hackneyed lyrics at almost every turn and the drum machine merely makes it all seem like a working demo for the band’s ears only. There’s pretty much nothing here that deserves to be shared with an outside audience of any kind. The band’s own material is given a ropey send off and the FGTH cover is just…sad. The previous electric EP was average at best, but this is terrible. Avoid at all costs.

December 2020