AFT: Hatfield Polytechnic

YOU INTO electric guitars? You like them in pairs, screaming and squealing in some kind of linear harmony?

You’ll love AFT.

They’ve even gone so far as to dispense with a vocalist. It’s too boring to have to stop playing and let him sing, you see. They’ve dispensed with rhythmic variety too. And sonic subtlety.

Instead, AFT blast the night away with a guitar note on every beat and a thunderingly busy bassline between every bar. Sure, man, the sound is full, but so’s the Concorde at take-off, and I’m not too certain which is the more painful.

Yet, strangely enough, AFT were called back twice at Hatfield Poly, not so unusual an occurrence since the band debuted at the Reading Festival earlier this year.

They played ‘The Great Panjandrum Wheel’ from their new Charisma album Automatic Fine Tuning. They played some other things too, like ‘Race Horses’ and ‘Airplane Annie’. Guitarists Paul McDonald and Robert Cross harmonised their way tortuously to Heavy Metal Heaven, while Trevor Darks and David Bell on bass and drums kept the whole machine churning without mishap.

But, despite an ability to write quite captivating instrumental themes, AFT proved themselves incapable of arranging their music with any degreee of intelligence of foresight. They presented a wall of sound that sometimes homogenised into something sweetly melodic, in the Camel or Oldfield neo-Classical vein, but was too often merely a raucous thrash of dubious musical quality. They drove on mainbeam, foot hard on the floor, all night long.

They also claim to be innovatory and jazzy, but put a surrogate Plant or, more aptly, a David Byron out in front of them and AFT would quickly show their colours.

Flashy schoolboy rock.

The quintessential English guitar band.

And thoroughly boring too.

© Chas de WhalleySounds, 13 November 1976

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