We all live in a world of injustice and it takes a lot of guts to stand up and fight for what’s right. Somewhere along the line, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, along with Denver Dalley, Ian McElroy, Landon Hedges, and Matt Baum decided to do just that. Under the name Desaparecidos, these five musicians have formed a hardcore band all about addressing what’s wrong in America. Their latest album, Payola, continues in the tradition of shining a light on the world’s issues and does a great job of it. With a beating heart and instruments in hand, Desaparecidos will send you anthem after anthem of punk rock anti-establishment tunes.
Desaparecidos carries a very specific sound to them. The band is like an early-mid 2000’s emo/punk band. For being a political band, they have a surprising lack of that oi! sort of vibe and a lot more of an energetic, melody focused hardcore feeling. To be blunt, had this been timed any differently the band may have bordered just being plain vapid, but there’s something refreshing about listening to Desaparecidos’ Payola. The band just seems to have awesome chemistry; and combines with a rather likable style and an earful of (rather relatable) qualms, Desaparecidos might just be the best political punk band in a while.
Payola’s politics are tricky. The album covers a massive span of topics, from Occupy Wall Street and the 1% to the internet’s favorite pranksters turned activists, Anonymous. From a very generalized standpoint, Desaparecidos does a fantastic job of getting the message across –there’s some crazy inequality in America (let alone this world) and someone has to do something about it. Unfortunately, the musical activism needs to stop there. Payola is by no means a proper essay on politics, society, or revolution. That’s not to imply that Desaparecidos is trying to push that idea, but rather that the emotion of the album makes it very easy to be caught up in the mob mentality.
Now for the twist –Payola seemingly lacks what made political inspired punk good in the first place. There’s no DIY atmosphere. There’s no intellectual thought. The entire time, Desaparecidos seems to tell you what to do, rather than simply suggesting that something is wrong. The album just doesn’t feel very free, it may as well be some sort of authoritarian socialist punk (I haven’t bothered to listen to it but I’m sure it exists). This isn’t a pissing contest over who’s more punk, but rather simply questioning the source and the message. Something just feels out of place.
Let’s just take a moment and step away from the politics. The album on its own is fine. The music is solid and well performed. Conor Oberst will blow you out of the water if you haven’t ever heard him outside of the Bright Eyes context. The only other issue that Payola faces is some possibly corny atmosphere now and then (“Anonymous” in particular is a bit much). Regardless, the album, as a music piece of work and not a statement holds up just fine.
Frankly, this album isn’t for everyone. Don’t give it to your crusty friends and don’t offer it to your right-wing grandparents. If anybody just needs a good opportunity to lash out a little and pick a bone with the man, then Desaparecidos’ Payola is for you. The intense atmosphere of quick guitar lines and powerful lyrics will keep your attention from start to finish.