Album Review: Desaparecidos, ‘Payola’
The electrifying punk rock outfit fronted by Bright Eyes mastermind Conor Oberst is back with their highly-anticipated new album, Payola, their second overall studio album and first in 13 years. No one ever knew if Desaparecidos would ever make a comeback, especially considering Oberst's Americana-leanings over the past decade, but Payola is as fierce of a well-balanced statement a band could make, asserting their dominance back into the world of punk.
Oberst's muffled and raspy vocals are reminiscent of Andy Hull's (of Manchester Orchestra), fused with a stronger '70s sonic rock sound. The backing four members are well-versed in the genre; Oberst and company's proficiency in nailing those quintessential punk rock hooks is undeniable throughout the album. The subdued electro fanfare and pop-inspired verses expertly bring their sound into the realm of the modern age.
It's certainly a massive departure from what you've been used to with Bright Eyes, Oberst's solo work or Monsters of Folk, serving as a lighter yet unswervingly assertive follow-up to 2002's Read Music/Speak Spanish. The new record has a bit more pop-punk flare to it than its predecessor, with songs like "Backsell" and "Slacktivist" sounding somewhat influenced by many of their label-mates.
The album itself touches on a number of socio-political and economic issues, in typical punk rock fashion (at least in the golden days), like the 1 percent vs. the majority, race, money and immigration. Even the album's title makes a statement, hitting on the idea that a record label would try to increase radio play through bribery.
The opening track, "The Left Is Right," is an excellent choice for the introduction to Payola, punching hard while taking a stance both politically and musically. "Underground Man" and "Golden Parachute" bring out riffs that remind us (in a great way) of early-era Alkaline Trio, while the disc's lead single, "City on the Hill," is one of the best punk compositions we've heard in some time.
As a reintroduction of a band that showed so much promise in the early 2000s, Payola goes above and beyond its mission. Oberst lays it all out with as much catchy punk rock fervor that he can muster. It's easily one of the best things he's done in years and we hope to see much more from this outfit in the future. Payola is a must-have for any contemporary punk rock fanatic.