Head Automatica Popaganda
Release Date: June 6, 2006
Record Label: Warner Brothers
Summer 2004 brought a big surprise from Glassjaw's Daryl Palumbo when he sprung an energetic electrodance project with Head Automatica and their freshman release Decadence, where it thrived off winding vocals and viral electricities that both intrigued and infected listeners. Two years later, Daryl and Co.--Jarvis Morgan Holden (bass), Larry Gorman (drums/vocals), Craig Bonich (guitars) and Jessie Neson (organ, piano, and keys)--have retaliated with Popaganda, an aptly-named follow-up that exudes sugary guitars, rolling and swinging vocals and jittery percussions.
Pleasantly beginning the album is "Graduation Day," an appropriate first single. The keys on the chorus portray the celebratory song and immediately make listeners aware that this is not the same Head Automatica of '04. The chord progression and choice of instruments avoid serious song structure and instead take a lighthearted and comical swerve to end certains tracks ("Laughing at You" and "God"). Also, Daryl continues his snotty, snobby, pretentious, obnoxious voice in and out, up and down, through and through the safe drumwork ("Oxy Contin" and "Scandalous").
What I appreciate most from this album is that Head Automatica show that they are comfortable in switching genres. Evenso, if pop music can be a safe bet at times, the album doesn't grow old through multiple spins. For old fans, approach cautiously to see what the band have grown into. And while this project hasn't decided on a specific sound, you ought to respect the staying power of a sophomore release that strays from what others thought was an established sound.
Though the album isn't separated purposefully by a certain song to split the album in halves, this reviewer tends to find more creativity on the keys and also in tempo changes of the latter tracked songs. "Shot In the Back (the Platypus)" and "Million Dollar Decision," I would argue contribute to the inspiration of the second part which respectively keeps on track with memorable lyrics. The final three songs, are a capstone to this record. Because of their inaccessible licks (reminding me of The Faint), I would guess most listeners would pass through them. Although for me, "Egyptian Musk" and "K Horse" are my two favorite songs on Popaganda. They are the alley cat and stray dog; drums are brought forward, guitars get tweaked out solos and the vocals progress with vindication.
Without the assistance of Dan the Automator producing Popaganda, Head's precision of sound doesn't settle well as a complete record. Where Decadence had a bottle-rocket pop to each song Popaganda explore a mishmash in production which allows for instruments to blend in and, especially guitars lose their punctuation. Most songs salvation in Daryl's vocals which shows weakness in how reliant a Head Automatica song is for Daryl to step it up. While Popaganda isn't the answer to any pop equation, this album is a hallmark for the summer and a must-have for 2006.