By Head Automatica
Daryl Palumbo (formerly of Glassjaw) returns with his new band's second full length album after 2004's strong, if rather inconsistent, debut effort Decadence. Popaganda is a rather different beast than its predecessor. Whereas Decadence found Palumbo experimenting with drum loops, electronic effects and collaborations with DJs like Felix Da Housecat, Popaganda shifts the dynamic to that of a fully fledged band, with 13 slices of sunny, catchy power-pop.
Opener and first single Graduation Day kicks the album off to a fine start, as Palumbo demonstrates his rather impressive vocal ability against a backdrop of crunchy riffs and a stadium-sized chorus. Laughing At You maintains this level of quality as Palumbo cheekily sings 'I think they're laughing at your band / I'm feelin' sorry for your band'. As a statement of intent, these opening tracks mark the arrival of Head Automatica as a band that might just stop the word 'pop' being used as a derogatory term.
Unfortunately, Nowhere Fast and Lying Through Your teeth are less impressive. It's not that these songs are bad, but they fall into the same trap that made Decadence inconsistent, and just end up being rather bland. Whilst they tick all the boxes: catchy chorus, memorable riffs etc., they just don't meet the standards found elsewhere on the album. God, for example, is possibly one of the best pop songs you'll hear all year, Curious is the kind of track that makes you glad to be alive, and Scandalous sounds like it was made for lighters-in-the-air, sing along stadium moments.
Popaganda, then, is the sound of a band cementing its sound and providing a more cohesive, consistent and enjoyable album than its debut. Ultimately, not every song here is a classic, and you might perhaps find yourself yearning for something with a little more depth, but Popaganda is as good a modern pop record as you're likely to hear for quite a while.