Sunday, 13 October 2019

Loud And Clear - Autograph

Provenance: In my mid-teens I made a series of compilation CDs that consisted wholly of stuff I'd downloaded from Napster. They bounced all over the place in terms of genre, there were five of them all told, and I'm very sorry that I can't locate them any longer.

Disc three had 'Turn Up The Radio' by Autograph as the lead off track, a real fizzer. Anyway, some years later one of the many smooth-brained fuckwits that post on the message board I used to frequent convinced me to invest in a few Autograph albums, as apparently the material was of a uniformly high quality.

Our survey said...

Review: ...EEEH-EEEURGH!

Apparently, I'm lucky enough to be in possession of a 'remastered and reloaded' edition of Loud And Clear, according to the Rock Candy blurb. I guess that's analogous to gazing at a turd on an ultra-high definition TV set. Where the turd wins out is that, mercifully, it makes no sound. Ironically, the remastered Loud And Clear sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of my toilet, so it's anybody's guess just how wretched this bilge was back in 1987 the first time around.

It's difficult for me to say much, clever or otherwise, about Loud And Clear because melodic hard-rock this generic almost defies description. I recall that in a When Saturday Comes review of benighted reality show Wayne Rooney's Street Striker, Simon Tyers described the set layout as "an advertising copywriter's view of what constitutes a back street"; and there are parallels here. If you asked a competent session musician unburdened by too much knowledge of 1980s rock to knock out a few tunes reminiscent of the era, it would sound an awful lot like Loud And Clear.

Also, I know this seems gratuitously sneery, but in an age where frontmen had cool fucking names (if nothing else), Steve Plunkett just don't do it. Steve Plunkett sounds like the guy who organises the office rugby world cup sweepstake. Steve Plunkett makes everyone a coffee, even if he doesn't drink it himself. Steve Plunkett writes a column for the programme of his local non-league football team. Steve Plunkett is a massive dweeb. The bar that Autograph had to step over to have an acceptable 1980s frontman nom-de-guerre was not high - you make the cut by finding one better than Steve 'Sex' Summers in my estimation - so it's almost impressive that they managed to limbo spectacularly beneath it.

I don't even feel like describing the music at any length; it almost feels sufficient to say that I prefer Bad English. All the up-tempo songs are moronic, and feature the same uninspired freeze-dried guitar work that is mildly admirable from a technical standpoint and utterly forgettable. If I was forced to be charitable (oxymoron, I know, I know) I might actually pick the ballad-y 'Everytime I Dream' as a not particularly shit piece of music. Also, I am not entirely ill-disposed towards 'Just Got Back From Heaven', which boasts some cute keyboard work. It's a shame that they don't use the keyboard with a bit more flair, as it's mostly deployed to parp unimaginatively underneath equally pedestrian chord sequences.

Just some variety, that's all I crave. I don't know why Autograph even bothered with a drummer on Loud And Clear because some kind of machine would've been more than capable at replicating the dull, potatoes 'n' potatoes percussion. This is a problem endemic to much 1980s arena rock; they took the wallop from big the previous decade's big hitters like John Bonham and Cozy Powell but discarded the attendant skill and creativity. Perhaps it was a conscious decision; I remember a documentary where Def Leppard talked about stripping down riffs and fills to their basics to ensure clarity in cavernous venues. I find myself speculating as to whether this was also the thought-process behind Loud And Clear - uncomplicated, no rough edges, choruses that could be sung by the most tin-eared amongst us - but unlike the Leps, they forgot to write anything memorable. Def Leppard? They're not even vying with Loverboy.

So, yeah, that's Autograph's Loud And Clear I suppose. Not the most thrilling review, but I'm not working with much here. This one's destined to gather dust, although now it'll go back on top of the pile and I'm worried that a houseguest will see it and think I like Autograph. On a final note; I mentioned in my intro that I paid for three Autograph albums. Only two showed up. At the time I was vexed, but now I look back and see nothing less than a small act of mercy on the part of the vendor. Once upon a time, Autograph exhorted me to 'turn up the radio', and if that's the alternative to actually listening to Autograph's dreadful music it's an invitation I'd be more than happy to accept, even if the dial was stuck on a talkSPORT Danny Mills marathon.

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