AUTOGRAPH – Get Off Your Ass

I was a 16-year-old pimpled faced kid back in 1984 and Def Leppard and Bon Jovi had just shown me that there were other sides to hard rock than Iron Maiden, Accept and Judas Priest. Not that I had begun to dislike heavy metal but I the new melodic rock / AOR laden hard rock had taken me by storm and I was on the hunt for anything with lots of keyboards, hooks from Hell and choruses bigger than Mount Everest. So I was in this record store and all of a sudden this big keyboard combined guitar riff came gushing over us customers. A brilliant hook and a sticky melody followed – the song in question was “Send Her To Me” – and when I asked the clerk who this was, she told me it was this new band called Autograph. I bought the album called Sign In Please right then and there and I listened to that LP constantly. When the follow-up That’s The Stuff came out in 1985, I was convinced that Autograph would be the next big thing after Bon Jovi – this band would be huge, I thought. But that never happened. Fact is, it was over already by 1987 when they released the disappointing Loud And Clear. The sales were down, their label RCA lost interest and the band left the label and when keyboardsman Steven Isham left the band in 1988, it was over and out and the band split up.

Autograph was on hiatus until 2013 but a lot of stuff happened during said hiatus. They released an album of unreleased material in 1989 called Missing Pieces and Steve Plunkett (vocals, guitar), Steve Lynch (guitar) and Randy Rand made a one-off small tour for that album with drummer Eddie Cross who replaced the defecting Keni Richards and in 2003, a new version of Autograph, featuring the only original member Plunkett released Buzz, to no success at all. To much more sad note, Isham succumbed to liver cancer back in 2008, making a full future reunion impossible. Because a reunion would happen. In 2013, Lynch, Rand and Richards got the band going again – without Plunkett, who gave them their blessing to use the name but didn’t want to participate himself. The guys hired singer/guitarist Simon Daniels (Jailhouse, Flood) but after just one year, Richards had to bail out because of health issues and Mark Wieland replaced him. Richards sadly died earlier this year from a (drug-related) homicide. In 2016, the band released a five track E.P. called Louder and now a brand new full-length album is out, featuring all five tracks from the E.P.

They kick off the album with the title track and leading single and it stands clear from go why Isham isn’t replaced here – the song doesn’t sound like the old Autograph at all. Gone is the keyboard laden AOR sounds and instead we get a full-blown sleaze rocker, a kick-ass rocker that tells you that 1989 never went away. But to me, it doesn’t do much. I don’t think the song is that strong or memorable, I don’t hate it it but it lacks identity and it feels like this song could be any band out there. “Every Generation” is better and more melodic rock laden and more suitable as a single. It’s still pretty far from the Autograph I knew and loved and is more reminiscent of, say, Warrant of 2017 in their more pop moments. It doesn’t floor me but it’s catchy and a pretty good tune. The album’s first power ballad shows up already as the third song and “All I Own” is a pretty good one. It’s a bit rockier than the usual power ballad and even though it sports a very catchy refrain, the song is pretty standard. It’s a good track, no more, no less.

“You Are Us, We Are You” brings up the same subject as Kiss’ “We Are One” – it’s about the fans and the band being one unit, a force that stands together no matter what, sort of. Song wise it lies on the more melodic rock side and it’s a nod back to the old 80’s style Autograph sound, only a bit rougher. It sports a big chorus and it’s very catchy. It was released as a single from Louder and should be a single for this record as well. Best song so far. “Meet Me Halfway” is more boogie-groovy with a blues swagger, a rock stomper with a very memorable melody and a catchy refrain. I think it is a good song without being exceptional. More melodic rock than sleaze rock is “I Lost My Mind In America”. It’s a party rocker, a pretty groovy thing with an AOR laden chorus, very sticky but it’s a bit too mainstream. It’s a decent song but it doesn’t rock my world. “All Emotions” is the most old Autograph sounding song on the record, but an updated more sleazed up version. The chorus is very pop-catchy and AOR-ish. Very good.

Listening to the glam / sleaze groover “Watch It Now” makes you feel like the party on Sunset Strip never went away – and neither did 1990. The song comes with Led Zep influenced riff and a really infectious hook. It’s a pretty cool rocker with a big live feel. Good song. “Ready To Get Down” is a standard rocker with a lyric that’s too cliché for comfort. It also has a keyboard riff very reminiscent of Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City”. The tune is mediocre and does nothing for me and goes nowhere. As a closer we get a live version of Autograph’s biggest hit “Turn Up the Radio” (it was also on Louder) and even though the new band makes a good version of it, it makes me wonder why they need to include it once again. To remind people that it is Autograph we’re listening to? A bit of overkill, if you ask me. Why not include another original instead?

Firstly – I’m not the one to bitch about reunions where all original members aren’t included. It’s not always necessary – as long as the most important members participate. Well, that’s not the case here. Steve Plunkett to me, was Autograph – he was the voice and the guy who wrote all the songs (more or less) and made the Autograph sound. Secondly – this album doesn’t sound like Autograph. Not one bit. Yes, Lynch and Rand have Plunkett’s blessing and they are original members and they have the right to use the name but I really can’t see the reason for them to do so. I mean, Autograph were never huge and it’s not like they will sell a trillion copies just because of the name and since this record has fuck-O to do with the band sound wise, why not just start anew with a new name? The band name aside, I don’t think this is a bad album, however, I don’t really find it that awesome either. What sinks this album the most is the lack of identity. Despite some really good songs, this could be any band out there and I just don’t get the feeling that I will get the urge to play this album again any time soon. Underwhelming.

4/10

Tracklist:

1. Get Off Your Ass
2. Every Generation
3. All I Own
4. You Are Us, We Are You
5. Meet Me Halfway
6. I Lost My Mind In America
7. All Emotions
8. Watch It Now
9. Ready To Get Down
10. Turn Up The Radio (Live)

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