The onstage dance moves and “lads, lads, lads” mentality may have been what first got eyes focused on Don Broco, but it’s the actual quality of the songs on their debut full-length Priorities that got them earmarked as one of Britain’s brightest rock hopes. What’s more, they didn’t sound like every other homegrown act, sprinkling dashes of funk and nu-metal into their mix, not to mention Rob Damiani’s booming baritone providing a welcome change from the over-earnestness of many other frontmen. It’s a tangible identity of their own, and it’s paid off.
The fact that the standalone single that preceded Automatic‘s release was called Money, Power, Fame is telling. One listen to this album shows the impact all of those factors have had on the band over the past couple of years. Bedford clubs have been replaced by Ibizan poolside lounges; beer garden attire of stylish shirt-and-jeans combos has been overtaken by suave white suits; even the album artwork has seemingly taken influence from Drive in its cursive neon calligraphy that stands out as much as it fits in with this new aesthetic. Basically, Automatic is the musical definition of class.
It goes without saying that there’s a musical change as well. Funk and new wave elements have been brought to the fore, but in truth, if it has a groove, it’ll be peppered around Automatic in some shape or form. It’s all done exceptionally well too, and throughout the band seem fully comfortable in their new skin. Take opener Superlove for instance, easily one of the best songs released this year with its irresistible vocal lines and Tom Doyle’s driving, ’80s cop show bassline (Doyle proves himself as one of the most talented bassists around on here with his consistently excellent contributions). It’s an establishment early on of the direction that Don Broco are going on Automatic, and just how brilliant they can be when they get it right.
They frequently do as well. There’s a slickness to the title track and What You Do To Me‘s flamenco guitar that has often been hinted at but until now has never blossomed, while Keep On Pushing‘s sharp riffs sound like the most wonderfully ‘Broco thing in the world. They often also stray into more unexplored territory on Automatic, and make it work – Nerve‘s understated verses and explosive, sonically-packed choruses could definitely be something that Awolnation could come out with, while Further rounds the album off on what is genuinely a string-backed power ballad. There may not be one set sound but their mastering of genre-swerving is exceptional, and while there’s a somewhat glibness to its sophistication, it undeniably suits them.
It suddenly becomes clear what Don Broco have been doing in the three years since their debut, and why such a long period has been left between. It’s been time spent cramming as many ideas as they can into a package that’s as concise as it is brilliantly oblivious of trends or boundaries. Even with that being the case, they manage to make the songs on here sound like the definitive sound of 2015 – that’s how far Automatic could take them. They’ve made one of the best albums of the year so far, and deserve every bit of success they get from it. If only because they’ve proven that you can bottle coolness.
For fans of: Lower Than Atlantis, Bad Rabbits, The Parade
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Automatic’ by Don Broco is out now on Sony Music.