Autobahn – The Moral Crossing

Autobahn – The Moral Crossing

Looking at Autobahn’s second album, its darkly mordant sleeve, the band’s name, the post-industrial and gothic connotations that these inevitably provoke, it would seem only too easy to dismiss the Leeds band as Eighties revivalists, re-configuring the riffs and lyrical themes of the likes of Killing Joke, Sisters Of Mercy and indeed Joy Division, all of them bands whom Autobahn admit are influences to varying degrees. Then there’s the name, and its inescapable associations with Kraftwerk, and the album title itself, The Moral Crossing, a phrase redolent of some very internalised personal conflict, of the kind that has propelled some of the actual greats of the gothic/darkwave music worlds into icons of angst and strife. With more than a hint of a knowing nod to their forebearers, Autobahn set out on an existential journey that may only end at daybreak. Night has fallen and as with all of the noteworthy bands of this genre, Autobahn are keeping those sunglasses on.

This is both a help and a hindrance to their power-charged, electronica-laced, grimly sardonic brand of alt.rock. There is an audience for this sort of thing and signposting their intentions is probably necessary, but not everyone will get the references and doubtlessly some of that audience will turn up at their live shows expecting an actual Kraftwerk tribute act (someone should do this, but that’s another review entirely). That audience aren’t going home disappointed, I need to say. Right from the instrumental opener “Prologue”, Autobahn are firing on as many cylinders as they can fit in the studio, and the verging-on-chaotic results are testament to their commitment and doubtlessly virulent live shows. Whilst the songs on The Moral Crossing positively invite comparison with some of the classic darkwave bands of yore, the more I listened to the album the more those comparisons began to seem superficial. Autobahn are sufficiently accomplished for their music to stand on its own merits, and as The Moral Crossing progresses Autobahn remind us of what it is that connects those band they admit are influences, and one or two others.

The synth motifs of “Future” might recall half a dozen songs by as many well-known performers, but it’s the song that really put me on to the idea that Autobahn are more accurately a product of a Leeds scene that gave us Sky Larkin, The Horn The Hunt, The Cribs and a host of lesser-known bands, as the frenetic drumming and swirling guitars of the title-track slide into an elegiac string section ending, I’m convinced. Keeping it loud and with some wry northern humour around the edges, Autobahn’s second album is a tour de force of resonant, power-driven, electronic alt. rock played as it should be.