Autopilot Off - Make A Sound (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Autopilot Off

Make A Sound (2004)


This full length seems like it's been in the works forever. Autopilot Off signed to Island back in 2001 and aside from promising EP the year after, the band's big "major label debut" has been a long time coming. Particularly interesting is how much the mainstream's interest in the punk scene has shifted since. In context, this was a band signed during the tail end of Blink 182's dominance and before the nu-emo element became the 800-pound gorilla it is today. One wonders if the label was expecting to catch a bandwagon that has since changed.

Fortunately the end product plays into neither trend and avoids the usual pitfalls that you see on debuts like these. Make A Sound arrives very earnestly, free of hype but free of the bullshit that comes with hype. The band has very wisely took the more rocking elements of their EP a step further. The band's rhythm section sounds particularly good on this recording and the production favours Phil Robinson's drums. It gives the record a heavier feel than others of this style and further cements the band's place as more of a straight up rock band than a pop punk act per se. The guitars on Make A Sound follow suit and offer a bit more variety and muscle than you'd expect. Thankfully Chris Johnson dosen't let things weaken vocally and proves that unlike so many of his contemporaries he can actually sing. The boy's got the pipes to actually deliver strong, forceful chorus' and almost never lapses into the pre-pubescent post-Blink vocals that most mainstream pop punk suffers from.

Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong shares co-writing credits on the album's first single "What I Want" and "Blind Truth." The latter features verses that are very characteristic of Tim's writing and is a nice change of pace in the record. Autopilot Off writes particularly strong, soaring chorus' that are prominently featured in infectious tunes like "Clockwork" and the title track. The pace is pretty consistent throughout, interrupted by the occasional slower tempo work (I hesitate to call them ballads) like "Divine Intervention." For the most part though this is pretty upbeat, rocking material. While there's no fault in the band's execution of it, the songs themselves aren't incredibly distinctive. This is a band that lacks a really distinguishing element, and while the absence of a strikingly unique voice or personality might hurt their chances at mainstream recognition, it generally frees their music from the shallow artifice of so much other pop-punk.

Make no mistake, this is a polished, slightly over-produced major label effort, but with that acknowledged it's quite well done. If Autopilot Off is going to be the new face of mainstream American pop-punk, I can certainly live with that.