Head Automatica - Popaganda (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Head Automatica

Popaganda (2006)


Darryl Palumbo isn't the first former hardcore singer to do a power-pop project, but don't hold that against him. With Head Automatica, the amount of recorded output has already reached the same place as Glassjaw, so this is probably the last time it'll be fair to refer to him as ex-Glassjaw, and so I'll get it out of the way: Glassjaw was a pretty great little band; one that did the freakouts better than most, and by their second album had expanded their sound to the point where it felt like the conflicting songwriting forces in the band would definitely break them up, as it eventually did.

Shortly after that, Palumbo announced Head Automatica, a band which earned many-a-hyphenated description: disco-punk, dance-punk, pop-punk and of course, some fairly nasty reactions as well. The band's first album, Decadence, was quite a catchy beat-driven affair, relying as much on the electronics of Dan the Automator as it did on Palumbo's Elvis Costello-like singing voice. With Dan gone, the band has switched from a beat-heavy dancy affair to straight up power-pop, and on Popaganda, Palumbo owes even more to Costello than just his voice.

Tracks like "Graduation Day" with its ringing keys and acoustic-over-electric guitars are only a guitar upstroke away from sounding like the bespectacled Mr.MacManus's earliest records. Of course, that works rather well for the most part, but some unfortunate daliances from power-pop into full-on hair metal plagarism ("Lying Through Your Teeth") are almost painfully derivative. "Nowhere Fast" is one of the most interesting tracks on the record, as Palumbo fully includes some of the unusual melodies of Glassjaw's Worship and Tribute with his newer sounds. With "Scandalous," Daryl aims for `50s R&B, "Curious" is straight up power-pop.

The most fully realized track is certainly "Million Dollar Decision," which is a finely arranged and guitar-heavy track. It's mid-tempo, sugary sweet and boasts some of the strongest melodies on the record. The only really Decadence-sounding track is "Egyptian Musk," which is heavily electronic and has an `80s club vibe to it.

In the end, we have a band starting to find their voice but hasn't fully committed to their new sound or discovered what it is -- with far too many borrowed moments from Elvis Costello and his new wave bretheren. There are some fine tracks here, but there is still significant room to grow.