Review: MESH – Automation Baby

We were pretty hard on MESH’s last album back in the day. As we wrote at the time, the bar is higher for a band that has produced so much terrific music over a long period of time and when they don’t reach it, even if their stuff would be considered great by another artist, it will receive a lukewarm review. When that band exceeds that admittedly high bar however, well, then we’re into the good shit.

On Automation Baby, MESH are into the good shit.

This album, the now-duo’s fifth full-length is downright revelatory. They’re setting new standards on how to do this stuff. Importantly, after some years of back and forth they seem to have fully realized what they are and what they can do. This is their most balanced album and song for song, may be their best yet.

From their purely electronic early efforts to their overcompensation to jam an awful lot of drums and guitar into the mix (which to be fair was increasingly de rigeur among much of the electronic community during that time), now they get it. Some songs thrive on pure electronics, others build nicely with a layer of guitar that feels sometimes surprising, always appropriate.

At its core this album plays to the band’s strengths. Huge choruses, anthemic, earnest melodies, vocals sung with the kind of power where you can just picture vocalist Mark Hockings clenching his fists a lot as he belts grimace on his face. Above all though, the songwriting is spectacular (a few cringe-y lyrics aside), and the arrangements note perfect. The songcraft on Automation Baby is in the words of one of the better tracks on the album, pretty near “Flawless”. (This is where we would normally list the standout songs but it’s easier just to note that “The Way I Feel” is a bit of a dull misfire and pretty much everything else here is outstanding.)

These are big songs with big ambitions and to shoot that high can really backfire on a band unless they stick the landing which MESH have done in spades. Early yet but this is the current frontrunner for best electronic album of the year and in a year that’s starting to shape up as a great one for the genre that’s saying a lot…

Watch: Born to Lie

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6 Responses to “Review: MESH – Automation Baby”

  1. I completely agree. This is an outstanding album. Even the ballads are among the most beautiful and heart-felt the band has produced for some time. The songs pack a lot of emotion and display a nice variety of songwriting. Yes, I believe that Mesh have really found their stride as a duo on Automation Baby!

  2. Softsynth, you’ve been on fire this week! Glad to see you’re staying on top of new releases; what a great year for music it’s going to be with new albums coming from The Knife, Empire of the Sun, VNV, Covenant, DAFT PUNK! Be sure to check out the new Ghost & Writer, which is getting stellar reviews all over the web.

    As for Mesh, they’re one of those bands (like de/vision) that I’m always surprised to discover how many of their albums I have in my music collection. I typically enjoy their latest for a few months, but other than 1 or 2 standout tracks I tend to forget about it. Automation Baby is more of the same, a solid release with some really good songs (“Just Leave Us Alone” is a favorite) but nothing I see myself raving about for years to come.

    PS: Awfully busy Gibson-esque album cover that doesn’t seem to fit the music inside!

    • Add Marnie (from Ladytron), Chvrches, OMD, Miss Kittin, Marsheaux, Jean-Michel Jarre, Royksopp, The Good Natured, Gary Numan, Apoptygma Berzerk, Goldfrapp, Leftfield, La Roux, The Chemical Brothers, to the list.

      And maybe Ladytron; they want to release a new album this year. Plus Kraftwerk and Boards of Canada (again, maybe).

      It’s going to be a great year indeed.

  3. In my opinion, Automation Baby is Mesh’ second best album after We Collide.

  4. I might have to go with We Collide, Who Watches Over Me, Automation Baby, and A Perfect Solution in descending order, but it’s a close race: every album they’ve made since the turn of the millennium has been just terrific. Still my favorite active synth act by a pretty healthy margin.

  5. Starchaser Says:

    ??? I’d say better its when we read SoftSynth that we’re in the shit – not the contrary!!..

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