Autozamm – 5th Degree (Warner)

NZ band Autozamm has been dragged into the controversy surrounding the seemingly gratuitous NZ On Air grants. This album was subsidised to the tune of $50K, which presumably went towards the hiring of an American producer to give it that fulsome rock sound.

I feel kind of sorry for them, as they have been branded as symptomatic of a funding system that rewards artists who suck up to a system that demands replication of overseas radio-formatted styles.

While there are plenty of bands out there doing just that, I thought Autozamm’s 2008 album, Drama Queen, was pretty good. 5th Degree is at least two steps backwards, but it’s not without merit. Its biggest problem isn’t craven copycat commerciality, but a tendency to move all over the place stylistically.

There’s a little bit of everything here: descending lines straight from late-period Beatles, power balladry, grunty rock, staccato Cars-style new wave, heavy blues and hard rock. At one point, they osmose into a wannabe-Tool sound, and on the very next track they get all minimal and moody and suddenly want to be Talk Talk or Mark Hollis.

If Autozamm had existed in the ‘70s, this record would have been drenched in guitar solos; instead, these songs are all really short, and crying out for some mid-section that transports the listener away from the captive territory of popular song.

While the overall result is less than stellar, the instrumental mix/lineup betrays some creativity in the studio, and it’s clear that the band aren’t the talent-free zone that some of their critics would suggest. GARY STEEL

Sound = 3.5/5

Music = 3/5

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