For a band coming out of LA, you expect Autolux to be more than a little over-stylized. The minimal, monochrome photography on the cover of Future Perfect proves that assumption to be true. Today, the image is straightforward enough to make any bearded post-ironic hipster cringe, but back in 2004 (ancient history in Internet time) this was the face of a band that had their aesthetic down with little room for cheapened reinvention.
The balloons on the cover art are direct enough: they’re like glowing silver molecules, bunched together uncomfortably but still shining in their own right. It’s a “future perfect” image of a pre/post-apocalyptic LA demographic — the unchanging, inflated luster of a city that is too self-aware for its own good.
It could be an elaborate ruse. In the course of the album’s eleven tracks we get tiny hints of the tongue-in-cheek wit needed to successfully pull the band out of trite naiveté and into the direction of Bonfire of the Vanities: Beverly Hills. Some of the best parts of “Here Comes Everybody” take off in directions of pop genius, specifically ringing chorus that consists of blown out power chords underneath a generic “Sha-la-la, let’s go!” As dull as it sounds on paper, it kicks ass in stereo, sticking itself to the insides of your skull like a glam punk parasite. But as a potential satire on the dumb nature of modern pop, it sags from its success. The band might be attempting to portray themselves as stark, intelligent minimalists through their artwork, but how much intelligence do you need to enjoy a little “sha-la-la”?
The opening track from Future Perfect gives a push in the direction of pure, dumb fun. “Turnstile Blues” starts off the record with a crushing example of power drumming from Carla Azar, pummeling the air like artillery raining from the sky. Soon after, guitar, bass and vocals add their contributions in swirling chords and enigmas, and before you know it, you’ve got a solid track and a tapping foot. There’s no trace of smirking satire or smart-ass double entendres. These are a powerful phrases written for the honesty of performing a powerful song.
For me, this is an example of an album that I’ll remember for its flaws as much as I’ll remember for its strengths. The band has an uncanny ability to sound nimble and light while crushing your soul under kickdrums and distortion, much like the cramped luster of the cover art. A the same time, the band also tend to be frightfully honest in their lyrics. And maybe it’s the cynical post-modern soul in me speaking, but it gets a little cheesy to be enjoyed more than a little at a time.
Album: Future Perfect
Tracklist & Review (Allmusic)
For more album art review, visit Probably Just Hungry.