Automatic Loveletter

Truth or Dare

Written by: DR on 31/01/2011 22:19:49

It's unusual for a band to sign with a major label so soon in their career, but Automatic Loveletter, or rather Juliet Simms, did. Right from their first EP, "Recover", through to "Automatic Loveletter", and now their debut full-length "Truth or Dare" they've been signed to Sony. Being on the books of a label like that brings its own pressures, balancing that with also trying to stay as credible a rock band as possible, going on the Vans Warped Tour and contributing to songs by bands such as LoveHateHero, All Time Low and Cartel.

Ultimately, associating herself with those bands doesn't mean much; Sony are a major label, so it's highly unlikely they care for artistic integrity or credability, they just want to make some fucking money, and Juliet Simms, or rather Automatic Loveletter, are just one of many vehicles used to achieve this. As a result, "Truth or Dare" smacks of that major-label mantra of 'write a few killer singles and fill the rest with filler... and we'll over-produce the fuck out of it'. The selling point is the vocals of Simms, who, even on the early EPs, was in possession of a voice that belied her young age. It was the kind of voice that was both tender and powerful, could truly soar at any opportunity, but with a slight raspiness that made her seem raw, and therefore believable, even while her song-writing skills were somewhat under-developed.

Alas, it seems she has succumbed to the power of the major label and the intense over-production that brings. "Heart Song" is energetic to the point of being forceful - a pertinent showcase for her powerful vocals, which are at this point most likely rooted in Joan Jett influence. Thereafter things start to get slightly ridiculous. In the re-recorded, over-polished and ruined, "Hush" Simms' sounds plastic to the point where no actual emotion emits, almost saved by one belted line of "it's alwaaaaays bittersweeeet". Another re-recorded mess is "Day That Saved Us" which suffers due to many of the same problems; on occasion the vocals soar enough to tug at your heartstrings, but no flow is ever maintained when a few seconds later she's back to sounding squeaky and overly-toyed with, as though she's a Disney star.

The biggest setback of "Truth or Dare" is that there just aren't enough good songs. "Heart Song" is good value for a few repeats, but the memorable moments seem to stop there. That's not to say it's a particularly uninteresting listen - fans of the dramatic pop rock genre will lap this up. "Story Of My Life" is the most succint summary of this album: a play-it-safe type ballad about love and heartbreak that soars just enough to keep you listening, but doesn't demand your attention.

For one, they should be a bit more daring in the songs themselves and the lyrics - 12 love songs will test anyone's patience - but two, and most importantly, allow Juliet Simms' vocals more room to breathe. She's at her best when she sounds natural and earnest, not tarted up in expensive production.


Download: Heart Song
For The Fans of: The Pretty Reckless, Paramore, Hey Monday
Listen: Myspace

Release Date 22.06.2010

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