With its soaring choruses and starlight-mint hooks, "Popaganda" wears its big aspirations on its sequined sleeve, especially on the kiss-off "Lying Through Your Teeth" and the quasi-ballad "Scandalous."
If the stylish realms of Decadence were perfect for late nights full of dancing and questionable other activities, Popaganda is Head Automatica's appropriately titled answer to those subsequent afternoons spent hanging out in the warm sun. Head Automatica still has that post-punk dance attitude consuming each track, but it's filtered this time through late-'70s pop influences like Squeeze and Elvis Costello & the Attractions instead of Dan the Automator's back-alley beats and electro-rock fuzz. While only two songs ("Nowhere Fast," "Egyptian Musk") fall closer to Decadence's sound, this isn't to Popaganda's detriment. Even with the occasional sticky moment, the band's transition never seems forced or contrived. The overall result is just a lighter, brighter, crunchier album of tight riffing, playful keys, punchy rhythms, and of course, Daryl Palumbo's distinctive elastic voice. "Scandalous" has a legitimate '50s vibe going on; "Cannibal Girl" owns seriously bouncy riffs; "Graduation Day" opens with crisp piano and guitar that build into an instantly catchy pop song sure to get overplayed on many an end-of-school mix (good timing with the album coming out in June, eh?). Catching a cheating significant other never sounded as fun as it does on "Lying Through Your Teeth" (with its subtly glam rock-esque chorus), and it's Palumbo's ongoing battle with Crohn's disease presumably addressed in songs like the pop-drenched "God." Toward the middle of the album, some songs don't initially hit that hard, but the rest of the record keeps things moving along for later listens. It's true that the neon strobe lights of Head Automatica's previous electronic-rock-punk concoction are all but completely replaced on Popaganda by the pure sun of sparkling guitar-driven pop songs. And moreover, it's probably safe to assume that some form of viable reinvention will continue to happen on subsequent albums. Trashy nightclubs are fun for a time, but really, who wants to be trapped in one for all eternity?