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Head Automatica – Decadence

Head Automatica are having a party alright, but they’re the only ones dancing.

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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.

(Warner Bros.)

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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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ritualists

After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.

“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.

Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.

“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.

There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.

(Out Of Line Music)

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The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk

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The Decline

It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.

Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.

From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).

Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.

(Pee Records / Thousand Islands Records / Disconnect Disconnect Records / Bearded Punk Records)

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