Bright Eyes man Conor Oberst returns to his post-hardcore project after a substantial time away. Payola is crammed with energy, angst and anger at the world that has entrenched itself since they’ve been away. Available as CD, or limited edition deluxe LP with excellent cover art on a die cut sleeve with a bonus booklet.
7/10 Robin Staff review, 22 July 2015
Are you ready to feel, etc? Back in the day, Conor Oberst used Desaparecidos as an outlet for a different kind of bloodletting from his standard fare sad boy songwriting. When he wanted to scream and scorch the earth out of nothing but spite, he’d go round up his post-hardcore crew and shout a little bit. Not too much, mind: as ‘Payola’ reminds us, Oberst is Cursive’s kind of punk, Manchester Orchestra’s kind of punk, and little more. This is emo as per: emotionally devastating or embarrassing depending on your mileage for the genre, but way overwrought either way.
‘Payola’ seems to know that, and wink at it: its heavy emotional thrills are buoyed by winkingly silly pop-punk chord sequences, as with the chunky one that cuts through “City On The Hill”; there are gang chants that’d make emo parody bands like Axis Of wince, and little riffs squeak out of line on “The Underground Man” with the joyous fervour of Joyce Manor’s first record. Weirdly, there are emo bands now making better songs by taking shortcuts, where Oberst still seems to believe in dynamism as a punk anthem’s best friend: weird affectations and motifs fill in the cracks of this record, but bands of the privileged kid p-hxc revival just say lyric and play a riff. Oberst songs sound impressive, but they don’t stay so long in the mind.
If you like Oberst as a lyricist, you’re good to go; in terms of the Desaparecidos Experience, there’s plenty of ambiguous politicising that spits on The Generic American Government but also sounds kind of strangely patriotic in between the irony. And there’s some terrific teenage Springsteen scene-setting too: “Von Maur Massacre” offers up a couplet about tearing posters off the wall and going to the mall, like the plot from the Breakfast Club but in a 2015 album made for fans of a musician who was largely popular in 2000. Have a good time; get as hyped as you like.
8/10 Jack Customer review, 3rd July 2015
Read Music/Speak Spanish has got to be one of the best albums produced by Conor Oberst, and he's got a hell of a lot of albums. Post-hardcore music produced by a guy whose comfort zone is predominantly indie-folk was always going to be an interesting listen and most people just assumed Desaparecidos was a one time experiment. In 2012 we heard rumours that Conor and the boys were back at it and in 2015 we finally get to hear in full what they have concocted since then. The music may not be as thrilling or fresh as it was back in 2002 but the passion and conviction has not gone 13 years later and Payola is a fierce, infectious LP because of it.
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