AUTOGRAMM – Diana / Licht Aus

They might not be household names, but Autogramm have been building a following on the alternative music underground since 2018. They’ve released discs on the Nevado and Jarama 45 labels, and their blend of indie rock, power pop and 80s synth pop often sounds as nostalgic as it does contemporary.

Tracks like ‘Born Losers’ and ‘Hey Allie’ (from their 2023 LP ‘Music That Humans Can Play’) are perfect demonstrations of how to construct a chorus that sounds like a fabulous 80s throwback, whilst ‘Love Is For Fools’ absolutely nails an early 80s, skinny tied, power pop homage, and their earlier ‘Small Town’ conveys a post punk energy with almost just as much ease. Autogramm are one of those bands that, wherever you choose to drop into their catalogue, you’ll find a huge, retro sounding hook that feels massively uplifting.

The tracks that make up this stand alone 7” are no exception. The self-penned ‘Diana’ taps into the band’s synth pop side with a major blast. The track opens with a pulsing synth rhythm that sounds like it wants to burst into Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s ‘Love Missile F1-11’ at any second, and then becomes even more 80s with the help of a lead synth bursting out with a huge sounding riff. At the point where you might expect a crashing guitar, the band still keep the focus on the keys; you’ll find a few power chords lurking in the rear throughout, of course, but these never take full control. The best guitar moments are supplied during the middle eight when an unexpected dream pop riff creeps into the mix, otherwise it’s down to the incessant rhythm and main chorus hook to hold the attention. Luckily, both these elements do a top job. The chorus itself is deceptively simple; this is likely deliberate given the busyness of the rhythm used throughout, and the still pulsing music retains one of the best 80s derived synth sounds ever. The result is a track that’ll become the ultimate earworm: it’s both infectious and a little annoying, but in the best possible way. With regard to the band’s synth-oriented tracks, this is top tier Autogramm.

On the flip side, a cover of German synth band Nicht’s ‘Licht Aus’ is much fuller sounding than the original cut. By slowing the tempo slightly and cranking the bass, the track has a much harder edge, but still retains the feel of the Nicht recording. The sharp rhythms and almost post-punk like bass have a heart that remains in the early 80s, as does a neo-futuristic keyboard solo that carries more than a hint of influence from The Cars’ Greg Hawkes. All of that is outshone by the other influence here, though: the tempo and guitar tones are a dead ringer for The Cure’s ‘10:15 Saturday Night’, and there even moments where the bass evokes the same feel as Michael Dempsey’s playing on that track. In terms of an impressive post punk/new wave homage, this ticks an impressive amount of boxes.

Those listeners who’ve not encountered Autogramm prior to this release would do well to backtrack and spend time with ‘Music That Humans Can Play’ before diving in to this two track offering. Time spent with the full album will certainly be more beneficial in terms of becoming acclimatised to their quirky guitar and synth dominated world. There’s something for you here in time, but this disc feels far more like a gift for the fans – a lavish stop-gap which broadens the Autogramm catalogue a little more, whilst tipping the hat to a couple of very obviouscool influences. Measured against the rest of their work, both ‘Diana’ and ‘Licht Aus’ should feel strangely familiar, but at the same time, the recordings are far from the sound of a band treading water. This is a short listen, but definitely one that feels worthwhile; this is the sound of a band now ready to take an even bigger musical step. Recommended.

March 2024