Automatic 7 - At Funeral Speed (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Automatic 7

At Funeral Speed (2007)


I suppose they kind of asked for it when they launched into musical history with London Calling on a borrowed motif from Elvis Presley's debut. But recently it seems like a lot of other sources have been making (good) use of the Clash's likeness. This also marks the second time this year that I've come up with a blindingly accurate composite description (Social Distortion and Jawbreaker here) only to find out it has already been employed.

For a band that's released albums on both BYO and Vagrant Records, I was surprised I'd never heard Automatic 7. Better late than never, I suppose; these guys definitely know what they're doing. At Funeral Speed is ripe with rough-edged, but no less emotional melodic punk. Honest and straightforward, a comparison to someone like Face to Face might also have value.

But man, there are some one or two-liners here that seem to be straight out of Blake Schwarzenbach's notebook: "It's killing time again, are we having fun? / Sleeping off the world. It's getting hard" ("As I Am"); "If I could change my coordinates, I'd set them straight for your room / And on your dirty bed of clothes I know I'd find you still and hard to hold" ("Ghost-Like"); and "Last call, please come home / The hardest thing I never said to you is gonna make the saddest song" ("Sunday Eyes"). And if lead singer Johnny Hulett having a nearly identical voice to Mike Ness wasn't enough, the scrappy punk rock & roll of songs like "Atlantic City" and "The Better Part of Me" engender that special Social D ability to meet halfway between feelings both upbeat and desperate. On the sauntering, almost atmospheric "Bad Tattoo," the band hits their climactic peak as Hulett confronts both his own addictions and what he inherited from an absent father: "You can't trust the smile on my face, my eyes are dead and tired / I don't wear it on my sleeve too well, just these tracks and bad tattoos / […] / Father I forgive you for all your bitter sins / I got the worst of your disease, now I understand."

Yes, for a band that formed in 1993, Automatic 7 seem to have come out of nowhere. Like an estranged family member that randomly sends you a giant check in the mail, At Funeral Speed is an unexpected though entirely welcomed contribution. Boasting memorable songs of emotion, muscle, and depth, this is an album any punker can enjoy.