Derek Allen – Vocals & Guitar,
Brian Sutton – Bass,
Matt Walen – Drums.
2. Cattle Prod Hypochondriac
4. 30 Second Song
5. Phil & Phyllis Philler
6. Swing Flesh
Songwriting is often a test of several skills for any artist. There’s an art to concise writing, but the greatest challenge is also incorporating the pushing of boundaries and conveying different emotions or energies. Otherwise we end up with generic grey musical matter that offers nothing but a noise to the grave. Who wants that? Let’s have some life, some thrills and spills! And this leads us, in a ham-fisted manner, to LOWER AUTOMATION’s latest EP offering.
To put it simply, “Shoebox Companion” is an absolute riot from start to finish. It’s a rather rare affair that a record takes you by the hand, throws you into the middle of a dancefloor and proceeds to force you to dance by firing clip after clip from an MP50, but the fun to be had is wonderful. It’s as if the virtuosic side of MUSE took a shine to punk, THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and cocaine binges; fast, bouncy and a touch insane is the summation of the LOWER AUTOMATION sound and it’s downright bloody infectious.
The aptly-titled “Coax” welcomes you into the cavalcade of chaos, with pumping beats, springy basslines and choppy guitars over which vocalist Derek Allen croons and wails – it’s mad but far from bad. Yet despite the insanity, there’s a strong feeling of coherence about the EP. Yes, there’s physically-trying licks galore, with squeals and noises that enhance the listen (see “Cattle Prod Hypochondria” and “Tethered”), but it all presents itself as entirely necessary. The danger with such a style would be to be too crazy for comprehension, but LOWER AUTOMATION make it work. Of note is the stellar closer “Swing Flesh” – equally as mental as everything to have passed before it, but sounding a touch heavier and every bit as toe-tappingly groovy.
If there’s one thing wrong with “Shoebox Companion” is that it’s far too bloody short. The fun doesn’t last for as long as one would like (but then, what doesn’t?) Saying that, it doesn’t outstay its welcome, which is testament to the band’s prowess as songwriters, but here’s hoping for a full-length in future. It can be a bit of a head-spinner in places, and one can get lost amidst the din and insanity, but the energy is undeniable. Blink and miss it at your peril.
Admittedly this, or future releases, may not be for everyone – there’s some miserable bastards out there who wouldn’t appreciate the zany nature or the unbridled energy that flows forth, but it’s a helluva ride. Impressively, LOWER AUTOMATION have managed to meld complex songwriting to ADHD and produced bitesize chunks of musical lunacy that’s thoroughly thrilling. If you’re a little nuts, pop “Shoebox Companion” in your earballs and enjoy; if you’re not, then do so anyway and join us. We’re fun, promise.