Autobahn @ The Lexington, Pentonville Road, London
Thursday 16th November, 2017
Autobahn are making a name for themselves in the current wave of post-punk revivalists with their increasingly experimental studio work and dynamic live performances. Their chosen moniker suggests a desire to identify themselves with the generation of weirdos and outsiders that thought Kraftwerk were the coolest band in the world; a generation that produced post-punk heavyweights The Fall, Durutti Column and Joy Division. Today they are a generation vindicated. In the music press Kraftwerk are being lauded as more influential than the Beatles and at gigs up and down the country that Unknown Pleasures t-shirt is omnipresent. In this new landscape then, does touting yourself as a post-punk band look somewhat like siding with the winners?
They draw a respectable crowd for a Thursday night. The string of EPs released and debut album thus far have seen the band perhaps play things too safely, refusing to stray too far from the tried and tested formula of their influences. That being said, they have evidently forged enough of an identity for themselves to get people out to this gig. The predominance of new material early on is a bold and welcome choice, and elicits murmurs of appreciation from those in the room.
This would seem to be a crucial juncture for the band, where they decide either to continue in the shadow of their predecessors, or to start forging their own identity. The evidence of the newly released second album, The Moral Crossing is encouraging and would suggest that they have started taking influence from further afield. Particularly noticeable is the influence of post-rock outfits like Trans-Am and Tortoise. Irregular time signatures and erratic drum patterns form the backbone of the new material tonight, and imbue older tracks with a new energy. The post-punk affectations are still there but underneath there is a real desire to experiment and break new ground.
Synths play a greater part in almost every song than before, and are a welcome expansion of the band’s sound. Going beyond the confines of guitar, bass, drums and vocals opens up new avenues of experimentation for the band and gives them greater scope for doing something that is original and fresh. The more they stray from the post-punk formula, the more the crowd warms up and engages with the music on stage.
The original post-punk bands were so great and are still proving influential today because they were brave enough to forge their own musical identity. If Autobahn continue on this experimental bent and are able to keep on growing in confidence, their own influence could be felt for years to come.