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Autobahn - Lexington, London, 9/11/2017

  by Adrian Janes

published: 23 / 12 / 2017

Autobahn - Lexington, London, 9/11/2017


Adrian Janes at the Lexington in London watches brooding post-punka Autobahn play an intense and compelling set.

Autobahn rode into town on the back of their dynamic second album ‘The Moral Crossing’, the heart of this night’s set. Without ceremony, the ringing guitars of ‘Prologue’ summon the audience in stately style, before accelerating into ‘Obituary’, driven by the hyper-energetic drumming of Liam Hilton and the glowering, gold-shirted presence of singer Craig Johnson. As if some sort of collective brake has been released, Autobahn proceed to push on through the remainder of their set, intent and intense. Some older songs (e.g. ‘Missing in Action’, ‘Pale Skin’) more clearly reveal the band’s hardcore roots, energy tending to outstrip musicality. But the mournful power of the guitars on ‘A Beautiful Place to Die’, a song of similar vintage, is but one hint of where they have been heading. Arrived at ‘The Moral Crossing’, their most recent songs show how they’ve learned to harness that basic energy to a greater musical and lyrical sophistication: the surface ferocity now has depth too. ‘Execution/Rise’ is especially good, a buzzing drone of guitars propelled by compulsive drums and impassioned singing, before ending in a hail of feedback. The plangent guitar intro of ‘Low/High’ is another illustration of the band’s growing confidence that they can hold an audience’s attention though sheer musical authority. As with the album version, I’m not convinced that the complex initial drum pattern fully gels with the rest of the music, but such doubts even here are swept away as the song progresses towards its conclusion, the guitarists swaying as if from the strength of the gale-force percussion. Halfway into the set, the synth-led ‘Future’ contrasts with the general distortion-laden atmosphere through its cleaner, sparer sound. The comparatively simple rhythm helps to make for a good groove, and the electronica feel hints at an influence which emerges later in the surprise cover of the evening, when Johnson steps to the side of the stage and sets a naggingly familiar synth phrase going. Is it…? Really…? Yes, as the rest of the band pile in, we are indeed being treated to a rocked up version of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. Johnson’s singing has more in common with that of fellow Leeds vocalist Marc Almond, more agony of love than ecstacy, more torn apart by love than healed by it. With several great songs already unleashed, the night can only conclude on ‘The Moral Crossing’ itself. Again beginning with a dark synth phrase, Hilton’s drums are like a mash-up of John Bonham and Tony Allen, power and agility combined, as Michael Pedel and Gavin Cobb’s guitars spit dirty, aggressive lines around him, Daniel Sleight’s bass grounds all and Johnson calls upon his most authoritative voice. A last few sombre notes bring both song and set to an end. But Autobahn have the potential to power on much further – try and catch them while they’re still playing at this level, so you can feel their intensity at its fullest.

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Autobahn - Lexington, London, 9/11/2017

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