ALBUM REVIEW: Desaparecidos – Payola | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Released: 22.6.15

Find out more at Desaparecidos’ official website


Desaparecidos, often billed as the side project of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, flew back beneath the radar pretty quickly after the release of 2002’s Read Music/Speak Spanish. A ramshackle, emotional exercise in blowing off steam, the band have spent the past 13 years on hiatus, regrouping in 2010 for occasional shows, and a scattered selection of singles.

Thankfully, Desaparecidos have made a triumphantly noisy return on Payola, even if the album does feature re-released singles (only eight out of the 14 tracks are brand new). Previous releases such as MariKKKoppa, Backsell and opener The Left Is Right are given a fresh, pointed outlook. Payola stammers with raw, disjointed musical direction; a thread of socially conscious venom running throughout, displaying a punch of directed anger that was decidedly less obvious on Read Music/Speak Spanish. This is all to its benefit – Payola is angst with a politically aware backbone. A standout is the tongue in cheek Slacktivist, with Oberst scathingly commenting on the 2015 millennial response to unrest: “I wanna kick back and get involved”.

Payola, on the surface, is almost a commiseration of the state of things, but it’s also a call to arms. There is a feel of stirring throughout the record, and this is most clearly exercised on closing track Anonymous, where Oberst yells “we do not forgive, and we do not forget!”. Tracks such as Radicalized are tense and controlled, but the band let all emotion and anger spill over in Ralphy’s Cut, which ends with strained, communal screaming. There is no attempt to contain any resentment – it’s thrown onto the table with wild abandon. The inclusion of the band’s previously released songs, which integrate seamlessly with the punk, Jawbreaker-influenced feel of the music itself, suggests that this sense of tension has been building within Desaparecidos for some time. Thirteen years is a hell of a long time to spend in limbo, and to a generation who are finally waking up out of apathy, Payola couldn’t be more relevant.

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