Of the three 80’s era albums from Autograph, this second one is probably the weakest.
Written by: gdmonline
ALBUM: That’s The Stuff
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Steve Plunkett – vocals, guitars * Steve Lynch – lead guitars * Randy Rand – bass * Stephen Isham – keyboards * Kenni Richards – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 That’s The Stuff * 02 Take No Prisoners * 03 Blondes In Black Cars * 04 You’ll Get Over It * 05 Crazy World * 06 Six String Fever * 07 Changing Hands * 08 Hammerhead * 09 Built For Speed * 10 Paint This Town
1984 was a breaktrhough year for fledgling L.A melodic rockers Autograph. A cool name, image, moniker, really this band should’ve been where Bon Jovi ended up, but somehow it didn’t quite happen for them. Making their name as the support band on Van Halen‘s ‘1984’ tour, Autograph presented ‘Sign In Please’ as their debut album, and though the band struck big with it along with their single ‘Turn Up The Radio’, the rest of the album wasn’t so consistent.
Which takes us to their second LP ‘That’s The Stuff’. One gets the impression that this album was rather rushed in the overall scheme of things. It wasn’t until the early part of 1985 that the tracks off ‘Sign In Please’ were getting heard on radio across the USA albeit slightly late, then all of the sudden the band were in the studio trying to rush another LP out the door.
It’s not as if ‘That’s The Stuff’ is a poor release. No way, but given time and consideration, the band should’ve taken more care to select a bunch of tunes that would show them the way forward – not backward. Alun (dangerzone) quite rightly pointed out that the band had the ability to mix hard rock aggression with AOR sensibilities – but let themselves down with giveaway and weak choruses, something I agree entirely with. That in itself suggests a problem with the songwriting.
Given that Steve Plunkett does most of the songwriting, I guess most of the blame can be laid at his feet. The title track ‘That’s The Stuff’ is a good case in point. The lyrics are ok but the annoyingly repetitive chorus is a turn off. They should’ve picked a better opener.
‘Take No Prisoners’ is equally nondescript. It’s not until track three ‘Blondes In Black Cars’ that things are on the improve. This one ended up being their single lifted from the album. It’s a catchy slice of cheeky pop metal with a hint of appeal. ‘You’ll Get It Over It’ is another to disappoint, but thankfully we are given a reprieve with ‘Crazy World’ – which harks back to material from the debut.
Along with ‘Blondes In Black Cars’, the other highlight here is ‘Six String Fever’, probably more so for the guitar antics of Steve Lynch. ‘Changing Hands’ has a surprising depth of melody which makes it feel a little bit out of place with the rest of the tracks here.
The amazing guitar tapping technique of Steve Lynch is to the fore on ‘Hammerhead’, no one quite has a grasp on this style of playing as he does! It segues nicely into the party rock anthem of ”Built For Speed’.. The tale of an L.A babe who is literally ‘built for.. ‘ Yeah right!
Demonstrating the album still has its moments is the brilliant ‘Paint This Town’, another party rock anthem. I reckon if Autograph had shifted the track listing around (as in putting their last two songs at the front-end), and perhaps changing one or two other tracks completely, the fate of this album could’ve been much different, for the better.
Despite my opinion, the album still managed to go Gold (i.e. over a million copies sold). Of the three 80’s era albums from Autograph, this one is probably the weakest. Things improved markedly by 1987 with the release of their third album ‘Loud And Clear’ – a closet classic for that year, but the band were undone by a ignorant and lazy record label who after four years of trying, had no idea what to do with the band or their albums.
Leaving the label, the band continued on for a short while but threw the towel in soon after. Plunkett went solo, Richards went onto Dirty White Boy, while Lynch reverted to Guitar Clinics. Who knows, Autrograph could yet resurrect themselves back onto the 21st century classic rockers circuit. I wouldn’t put it past them!
That’s The Stuff