Smile Politely

Finding relevance in a digitized world

Rex Bennett, singer and drummer of The Autocorrect, worries about a future in which machines replace everything soulful. His outlook and concerns in this day and age are valid, and he does his poetic best on the band’s new album to help others see the light.

The band’s first full-length album, Come See the Future, is lyrically bleak with robotic-sounding speaking voices that infiltrate the songs on occasion. Amid all the digitized darkness within Bennett’s lyrics, actual humans made this music, ones who were perhaps influenced by the tunes that sprung from Champaign-Urbana in the 1990s—namely, Hum with a little bit of Honcho Overload thrown in.     

Bennett and his crew, which includes Richard Miske strumming on down-tuned guitars and bass and Andy Wilke playing captivating, ever-present synthesizer, have written six songs that roam to other places at will and usually last from 6 to 10 minutes. Sincere in what they do, the members of The Autocorrect have created dirge-like, slightly out-of-tune songs that are curiously adventurous in nature but often mundane in sound. All this contemplation about humanity’s place in a digitized world would be more stimulating with more hooks.

That’s not to say there aren’t bright spots. The bridges that occur in all of these tracks keep listeners on their toes and sometimes take the opuses to interesting places. Wilke’s keyboard work on nearly every song is reminiscent of classic Duran Duran and adds a gleam of light to a bleak-sounding atmosphere. Bennett’s drumming is also solid.

Vocally, Bennett sounds like a strained Elvis Costello. At his best, his voice comes through like an odd combination of Costello and David Lee Roth. What’s perhaps more of an issue, though, are the soft-sounding vocals in the mix. Bennett’s thin voice won’t win any awards, but its honest sound deserves to be better heard within the lo-fi ether.
Outside the robot realm of the world, Bennett’s words are just as dispiriting. On the opening track, titled “The Bureaucrat’s Lament,” he decries the red tape we all face in life: “The instructions are crystal clear,” he sings. “Had you read them, you would not still be standing here.” The tune’s premise is sort of whiny, and it contains off-key background vocals by Theo Malekin, Christine Mayer, and Roger, the band’s CEO and virtual member who contributes live and on recordings.
“The Age of Big Business” was written from the interesting viewpoint of a future story told around a campfire about an era of civilization (ours) that mass produced many wonders but ended up in ashes through its own self-imposed mistakes. In describing the song’s inspiration in the liner notes, Bennett asks the intriguing questions: “What stories do they tell? How do they remember us?”

Listeners may not find these lyrics to be as deep and clever as they strive to be. When Bennett sings about his pixelated girlfriend on “Singularity,” it comes off as well-known turf by now, the transformation of the world from a socialized, connected one to a place of, well, increasing singularity, one by one. Still, the gentle guitar strums throughout a good portion of the song, before it transforms, are genuinely pretty and complement Bennett’s singing nicely.

In his liner notes, Bennett describes the final track, “Weirding Room,” as “an extended journey from the claustrophobic loneliness of our automated society toward a more transcendental experience that defies explanation.” Heady stuff.

“Weirding Room” begins with the sound of an outdated modem from the 1990s and then a deep, throbbing guitar kicks in for a while. Wilke’s synth eventually slides into the song, making it seem like a cool collaboration between Hum and The Cure as the instruments take turns on center stage. Near the 5-minute mark the song becomes particularly beautiful and ethereal as the synth and Hum-like guitar strumming intertwine. Bennett’s drawn-out drum fills permeate, the guitars get louder, and, as everything gets more riotous, the synthesizer glimmers steadily in the background. Six songs into the record, listeners discover that Bennett’s description of “Weirding Room” isn’t hyperbolic. When these guys just relax and play, things get mesmerizing.


Come See The Future is available now via the band’s Bandcamp page. Check out The Autocorrect tonight when they play their CD release show at Cowboy Monkey with Lonely Trailer and Snayl. The show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $7 at the door.

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