Monday, January 31, 2005

Head Automatica - Decadence

score: 4 out of 5

Just as you would hope to expect from any album titled "Decadence", Head Automatica's first release is full of unrestrained self-gratifying party mentality. The band is largely the collaboration of producer Dan "the Automator" Nakamura of Gorillaz and vocalist Daryl Palumbo of Long Island hardcore band, Glassjaw. The project finds both reaching away from their past music experiences. Palumbo strives to prove that he is more than a one-dimensional talent - pulling a musical spectrum of influences to the mix, and asking you to check any preconceived notions at the door. From beginning to end, Palumbo’s voice is the one truly unifying factor that glues the whole thing together. Within seconds of the first slice, Head Automatica opens a door into a world of lavish debauchery and excess. From the start, the band takes the listener on a joyride through the streets of Sex, Drugs, and Rock n Roll. Full of lust and greed, Decadence could easily be the gratuitous soundtrack for an evening of cocaine, strippers, slot machines, and car chases with the police.

The listener is greeted by the pub-rock flare of At the Speed of a Yellow Bullet, an uptempo jam in the flavor of The Black Crowes, or more recently, Jet. But be careful getting too comfortable in your listening, because the album makes sure it switch hits as frequently as possible.
Before you know it, the second track, Brooklyn is Burning, leaps into a funky 70's television groove, reminiscent of Shaft, except with breakbeats.
An early single, Beating Heart Baby, packs in as much sugar as a mouthful of poprocks. The infectious melodies and vocal nuances are sure to keep the listener's head bobbing throughout.
Just when you think it can't get much catchier, the album breaks into Please Please Please (Young Hollywood), arguably one of the disc's finest cuts. Lyrics like "let me devalue what's inside you" provide all the raunchy details you need.
At track five, King Caesar is possibly one of the album's weakest tracks. The song as a whole is actually quite decent, but the nauseating pop-punk chorus tries too hard to be catchy, and seems to force itself on the listener like a date-rapist (then again, maybe that's the idea?). No worries. It's still better than anything by Simple Plan.
Any shortcomings suffered are quickly smashed by following track. The Razor is full of energy and emotion, at times bearing resemblance to groups like Taking Back Sunday. Dance Party Plus drives the ball even further, with it's disco-trash-punk. Not only does Rancid's Tim Armstrong add vocals, but a female contribution on the chorus brings out one of the album's crowning achievements.
If it weren't for Palumbo's signature voice, the funk of track 8, Disco Hades II, could have you swearing you had entered another era.
Solid Gold Telephone brings in a slightly more lounge atmosphere, with a piano taking the place of the organ that is commonly used throughout the album.
Head Automatica Soundsystem finds the band changing their sound once again - this time adding some R&B with vocals that occasionally turn to the kind of cheesy rap you would expect from a boy band. Even though I wouldn’t call this one of the album’s top songs, it is still quirky enough to work.
The final track is humorously titled I Shot William H. Macy, and slams on the pedal for a high-powered conclusion. Palumbo’s momentum bursts as he shouts, “You wanna pop pop pop, you wanna click click click, you wanna shoot, you wanna shoot, shoot wanna shoot.” As if the car chase of an album is finally over, the song spins out of control and the album meets its inevitable end.

Head Automatica soars ahead with their original twists on classic sounds. Palumbo gets his chance to evolve from the angst that many have pigeonholed him to for years. He pulls through with a strong performance and pays homage to a wide array of the music that has been an inspiration to him along the way. Released in late 2004, Decadence proves to be a highly creative and worthwhile listen for those who have an appreciation for a variety of music.

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