Like giant phosphorescent disco balls, Head Automatica’s Decadence tumbles out from your neighborhood dance club with a desire to “fucking party;” so goes the words of Automatica’s one-half Darryl Palumbo. And before you gear up in your favorite leisure suit and ready the shag carpeting, let me save you the trouble; Decadence is nothing more than a rock record hastily mixed and melded together with scattered funk beats, electronica loops, synthesizers, and brief disco sensibilities.
To think that Palumbo’s musical outlook would vastly increase in more capable hands is hopeful thinking. While this collaboration with noted DJ, Dan “The Automator” Nakamura (famed for his work with “Kool” Keith Thompson, and later with his own mix work), is a step in a new direction to this regular band mates, it still doesn’t change the fact that Mr. Palumbo’s voice meanders from extremely irritating to mildly nauseating. And while Nakamura handles most of the beats and producing work in Decadence, the majority of live instruments and voice work is sadly, handled by Palumbo. And Palumbo’s musical ability isn’t even the biggest problem with this release, to state quite frankly, for a supposed “party album,” Decadence is just no fun at all. It’s more like a sausage fest without the beer to inebriate the mood.
Take for example, the lead off singles for the record- an expected bang to start off the party correct? Not quite; “Please, Please, Please (Young Hollywood)” suffers greatly from its rather stagnant composition- sounding like a broken horn looped over second-rate beats layered with of course, Palumbo’s strained articulation trying its hardest to come across as even remotely interesting. For a hopeful “hit single” looking to jumpstart a tepid Friday night, the song is just TOO DAMN TEDIOUS; for a song aiming at some level of creative ingenuity, it comes off horribly contrived. For a split second, “Brooklyn is Burning” sparked some genuine interest; an edgy (I use that term loosely) first few moments akin to License to Ill Beasties– all before it unravels in a wave of gangly synthesizers and enough cheese to stack a thousand Chuck E’s across the globe (witness it’s gloriously Beverly Hills Cop-era lyrical wit; “I feel the fire tonight / I hear, I hear the people cry / I see all the people now / I got, I got what the people want”).
I shall point out that they do manage one, ONE, moment worth firing up your favorite p2p software for- “Beating Heart Baby.” The track finally grabs the listener with the kind of gusto that makes for a good time- a melding of rock sensibilities with the sonic, manufactured sounds of 80s power ballads and just a touch of that Glassjaw growl … right … MOMENT. DISTINCTLY. OVER. The overtly pop sounding, culturally stunted “Head Automatica Sound System” is the deadweight that sinks this vessel into the perilous depths of music’s dark abyss, exposing it for what it really is: a pointless, self-indulgent ego-trip hoping to ride the crest of dance-influenced rock music while dragging along Glassjaw’s listeners on some “revolutionary” musical trek.
Perhaps we are spoiled- recent acts like The Rapture, Franz Ferdinand, Scissor Sisters, Radio 4, and maybe even The Killers – have taken rock music and successfully melded it with dance/disco/club’s more ubiquitously fun, sexy, and psychedelic nature launched eons ago by the likes of Primal Scream and to a lesser extent, Parliament. If the previously mentioned bands are the very best of the current crop, then Head Automatica could be among the worst- they’re having a party alright, but they’re the only ones dancing.