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Automatic for the people

automatic.jpgThis may be Franz Ferdinand's festival; not because they headlined on Friday night, but because all the young English groups who were either directly influenced by them or sound enough like them to attract industry attention are now coming into their own. There's a whole slew of UK bands on the roster who play melodic guitar rock married to literate lyrics and a clever attitude. Most of these bands seem to playing the Red Marquee. The Automatic is the youngest, which means they probably weren't paying exclusive attention to Franz. Given that they did a cover of Kanye West's "Goldigger" during their afternoon set, their attention was probably the same as all the other teens in the suburbs of Wales--or in any suburb in the world.

Rob, the lead singer and bass player, certainly doesn't act like someone who has yet to see the far side of 20. Cocky and confident yet gracious, he directed the four-piece through a 45-minute set with nary a pause or a stumble. Apropos their name, The Automatic is one tight unit, even if keyboardist and utility vocalist Pennie tended to get carried away, throwing himself on the floor, banging a tambourine hard enough to break the skin, and producing the kind of screech you usually hear coming out of death metal singers.

The music has that kind of sweet kick that UK punk bands are so good at, and if the group resembled anyone it was the Jam. It's also the kind of sound that Japanese kids dig the most, and Rob seemed genuinely surprised--and extremely pleased--to notice that a lot of people knew their songs and even the lyrics, despite the fact that their debut album was released in Japan less than a month ago. "Well done," he said approvingly after the band played their first UK single, "Recover." He then directed the rest of us to the concession stand "behind the Green Stage" where we could buy it for ourselves. These guys are gonna go far.