Autogramm’s Music That Humans Can Play shows how you can be influenced by the past without being caught up in it. On the band’s second album, released via the legendary Stomp Records, Autogramm wear their love for the neon-lit yesteryears on a hypercolor t-shirt but shows an equal love for the lo-fi underground. This celebration—along with some charming songwriting—results in Music That Humans Can Play sounding current, fresh, and fun.
The band—Jiffy Marx, The Silo, CC Voltage, and Lars Von Seattle—marry lo-fi rock, synth-powered new wave, and early punk rock together for an album whose vibrancy never drops. From the get-go, there is a surging glow to Music That Humans Can Play. While this could have quickly gone south with an over-reliance on sounds from a bygone decade, Autogramm’s LP avoids that pitfall by writing some great pop-rock songs. “Hey Allie” will be your Seasonal Affective Disorder jam until the spring equinox, and when you don’t feel like dancing, just let the record play to the next track, “Why DO We Dance.”
Speaking of “Why Do We Dance,” it invokes memories of Jay Reatard, Devo, and The Network (the latter comparison should be taken as a compliment since Money Money 2020 shows how to weave humor, punk, and synths together, and Music That Humans Can Play follows in that vein and shows how synth punks can do good). This grit and grime against the pastel and pristine makes Music That Humans Can Play successful. If they were to lean into the power suits and shoulder pads of the ’80s, it would just be cosplay. Yet, as this album shows, Autogramm is legit and not playing make-believe.
The energy on this album is constant, but never one note. From the mid-tempo underdog anthem of “Born Losers” to the gritty touch of alienation of “WannaBe,” all through the songs about heartache (“Love Is For Fools”), sadness (“Hey Allie”) and optimism (“Dive Right In”), Music That Humans Can Play never drags; nor does it feel like it rushes by.
These are universal experiences shared in some well-crafted songs. While it would be foolish to consider Music That Humans Can Play a “concept album,” it seems that this collection of songs is a collection of basic human experiences, a possible instruction manual for navigating life.
Though the band members hail from the chilly climates of Seattle, Vancouver, and Chicago, there are some sunny moments on Music That Humans Can Play. At these times, Autogramm might seem contemporaries of FIDLAR, Best Coast, Wavves, or other Southern California bands of the early 2000s. Hopefully, Autogramm will join one of them on a North American tour in 2024 since Music That Humans Can Play deserves to be played in front of humans.