Head Automatica Live @ Pontypridd Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd (UK) - 24th May 2007

Well this has been a long time in coming; but ex Glassjaw frontman Daryl Palumbo has finally made it to the UK to debut his latest recording act Head Automatica. Now in the space of two weeks Head Automatica are playing South Wales not once but fucking "twice", talk about all the powerpop tour buses coming along at once… eh.

Following a series of previous show cancellations (due to Daryl's ill health) Head Automatica's UK gig cherry breaker was also something of a high profile show, going out live on Radio One as part of "The Full Ponty" fringe music festival. As a result, this rather wonderful "old school" venue opened its doors at the ungodly hour of 6pm and was crawling in TV and Radio people, giving it a cosmetic "studio" feel rather than that of an actual gig.

After about twenty minutes of a female rapper going by the name of KC, Swansea's "Viva Machine" kicked off the night proper with a set of songs that just couldn't decide what they wanted to be. One minute they sounded like Justin Hawkins fronting Kaiser Chiefs, the next they sounded like Justin Hawkins fronting QOTSA. To the bands credit they have a huge sonic presence, and draw up some quite staggering energy within their 4-piece demolition unit. I just can't get on with the Hawkins and Prog Rock leanings that a lot of newer UK bands seem to have these days (fuck guys, get a copy of 'Total 13' instead of 'Tales from Topographic Oceans').

Ah and before I forget will someone please tell Viva Machines singer/keyboardist Chris that the last person to wear braces live was Udo Dirkscheinder.

By the time Head Automatica finally took the stage at 8:30 I have to be honest and say I was bored rigid. Along with the blathering of idiots from Radio One playing inane trance beats and ranting about how special this gig was, I was seemingly stuck in a room full of Adolf Hitler haircut clones more concerned with their fashion sense than anything happening music wise that night. However, as soon as Head Automatica bounced out onto the stage all smiles and designers clothes, I have to stand corrected. The mini Third Reichers sprung into action and sang every fucking word of every song. (There is a learning point for Johnny H somewhere in this).

Head Automatica, for those of you who are unaware of them, is a band with two (superb) albums. Live, they also seem a band of 2 musical directions. When they play the sublime powerpop of second album Popaganda, it really is Elvis Costello and The Attractions up on that stage. Whilst tracks from the more eclectic disco/punk debut Decadence draws strong comparisons towards Faith No More.

With that in mind the newer songs aired towards the beginning of the night saw the band ripping through Graduation Day, Laughing At You and Nowhere Fast like the Declan McManus Thunderbird puppets they really so want to be. All swagger; posture, and true rock star attitude from Daryl Palumbo (who strangely resembles a hardcore punk version of Liam Gallagher/Ian Brown tonight), whilst delivering some of the catchiest powerpop played this side of the Atlantic since Tsar last visited our shores.

It's when the band dipped into the Faith No More mode later on in the set that I had some problems with the dual musical direction. Granted, gems from Decadence, like Please, Please, Please, Brooklyn's Burning, and Beating Heart Baby, stomped all over us like Scissor Sisters on steroids but Head Automatica then spoiled things by dipping into a jam section to finish the night off. This for me, was just too self indulgent for a sixty minute set broadcast live on the UK's second or third most listened to radio station.

So, at just after 9:30 it was all over, leaving me feeling slightly somewhat disappointed after waiting three years to see this band live.

Now I just have to reflect on this gig and work out if I'll be just as keen to see Head Automatica in Cardiff in a fortnight.

Now where is that lucky pound coin, heads I go tailz I don't

…Watch this space.

by Johnny H.

Visit the Head Automatica Website

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