The Amsterdams - Automatic EP
Tim Miller 05/12/2008
Romania isn't exactly at the forefront of a sparkling wave of new music at this moment in time: The Amsterdams (that's not even in Romania, either!) are an indie rock band breaking out from a Bucharest scene that's largely monopolised by its DJ and club circuit. If Romania is to embrace indie, it will be because of the endeavours of this band (the promotion guff claims), but if that happens, and that's a big 'if', The Amsterdams' countrymen might well soon forget them in search of greater things.
For 'Automatic EP' is grounded in indie trends and sounds, but doesn't do much with it. The energetic first two tracks 'She's Automatic' and 'Petrolise All Mice' (is that lost in translation?) are well versed in stark guitar lines and rumbling rhythms, but the most notable citation is the band's vocals, owing a debt to Joy Division and Interpol in their coarse one-note style. The memorable 'Petrolise All Mice' is perhaps naturally the highlight of the EP, even containing as it does the lyric “We've got a big big mouse, in our house, running off to wars again, running for the president”. The overt message is satirically political - the song apparently inspired by a journalist friend of similar taste - but without being too preachy, or even serious, for a change.
The EP's third song is more low-key, 'Light Out' taking its lingering guitar cues from 'So Here We Are': Eastern Bloc Party, you might say, while 'Suffering & Surfing' fuses that earlier enthusiasm and Interpol's sense of melody against dynamic changes in rhythm and volume, a thrashed-out chorus and pounding drums.
The Amsterdams don't lack anything in attitude, and certainly sit comfortably with the Western style they prefer over their homeland's favoured genres. But while that might be enough to convert the uninitiated, there's little by way of style or innovation in sound to herald The Amsterdams as a groundbreaking band over here, and astute ears will only register this EP for what it translates into: indie rock by numbers.