Album review: Desaparecidos’ ‘Payola’

Annie Zaleski

Three and a half stars

Desaparecidos Payola

When Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst reactivated his politically charged punk band Desaparecidos in 2010, it was one of the more welcome (if unexpected) reunions in recent years. During its brief initial existence, the group released a fantastic record, 2002’s Read Music/Speak Spanish, before summarily breaking up. Judging by Payola—Desaparecidos’ first full-length since returning—Oberst & Co. have been storing up plenty of anger in the meantime toward a variety of things: government hypocrisy, unlawful surveillance, racism, subpar health insurance, unnecessary wars, historical ignorance. As a result, the album’s lyrics are scathing and pointed (“All the founding fathers sowed their seeds into servant girls,” starts one song), which gives Payola ferocious urgency. It also helps, of course, that Desaparecidos hold nothing back musically, from shrill keyboards and grungy shredding to hollering gang vocals and Oberst’s raw-throated rasps. “City on the Hill” employs drilling riffs for maximum alarm; “Radicalized” seethes with needling guitars; and “Te Amo Camila Vallejo” feels a rough-hewn hybrid of Against Me! and Gaslight Anthem. In fact, Payola channels its ire into compact songs, ensuring the album is both abrasive and accessible, and thus maximizing its impact.

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