Autumn Poetry – From October to Marge

Autumn Poetry
From October to Marge

To their credit, the folks in Autumn Poetry don’t try to wriggle out from under the dreaded “emo” tag, freely owning up to their membership in that oft-derided subset. Wriggling wouldn’t work anyhow, as these four are so clearly of that genre that any attempt to portray themselves as carrying on a tradition other than emo would be a waste of time. If by now, in 2004, you’ve just heard enough of it, or if you’d heard enough in 1992 for that matter, go no further – forget you ever heard the name. If the formula needs an update, Autumn Poetry doesn’t sound interested in providing one.

Emoisms are flagrantly evident in the keening, doleful major-key melodies and the ever earnest woe expressed in the lyrics. The more complicated guitar knottiness of some bands of their ilk is absent, instead we’re presented with mountainous chords that suddenly turn all delicate and gingerly plucked, mostly played over a glacial drum beat. The melodies themselves are nebulous in the extreme, rarely settling into a coherent hook, just kind of unfurling lazily over the guitar churn. “Moonlighting” and “Spots” feature criss-crossing harmonies sung capably, I guess, but any music that fancies itself as being so laden with emotion that it christens itself with that very word as its genre namesake needs more expressive pipes to deliver the message. It doesn’t help that, like I said, the tune itself is only so-so. I’ll never complain about loud distorted guitars playing interlocking lines and lush chords though, that’s always been the draw of emo for me. But I’m often frustrated at the number of songs from bands of this persuasion that manage to construct striking soundscapes of intricate and odd riffs, who take the time to arrange counterpoint lines that clearly betray a deep interest in melodic invention and then piss all over it with a lame or simply annoying vocal. Autumn Poetry isn’t guilty of being either particularly annoying or striking, but like much emo, the attempts to write a memorable vocal melody result in one that’s less interesting than the music behind it.

The band fares best in “Superhero,” which breaks the mold in so much as it employs a snappier tempo and effectively subtle harmonies, though it doesn’t warrant it five-minute running time. “A Fairmont and Cigarettes” is okay, beginning with those cascading arpeggios that always catch my ear, but it soon devolves into…well, you know. What’s the problem here? Too few records in the collection? Too much Polyvinyl and not enough (help me out here) Touch & Go? Or is it that damn Catcher in the Rye these sensitive types are always reading? Don’t ask me. Whenever I’m confronted with a band sporting a limited pedigree, I always recommend ELO and no one seems to take me seriously.

If you’re pining for your salad days of the mid-90s and the flock of like-minded bands who mined their diaries for song ideas, you might want to throw a few bucks Autumn Poetry’s way. Here’s hoping the band can take its interest in grandiose emoting and fashion something a bit more rewarding from it.