Head Automatica with the Cure , Interpol , Auf der Maur , the Cooper Temple Clause and the Rapture at the Molson Amphitheatre (909 Lakeshore West), Monday (August 9). $25.50-$85-50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
I have to admit I'm not a huge Glassjaw fan. That growly demonic shouting-like-a-little-kid-throwing-a-tantrum screamcore thing makes me feel old and irritable - kind of the way I've heard menopause described.
Understandably, I wasn't particularly excited about frontman Daryl Palumbo's new project, Head Automatica, even when I heard it included Dan "The Automator" Nakamura from Handsome Boy Modeling School and Gorillaz. Even when I read that Palumbo's favourite bands include Squeeze, Nick Lowe, Primal Scream and Elvis Costello. How different could it be?
So you could have knocked me over with a whisper when I put Head Automatica's debut album, Decadence, into my player and discovered it's actually pretty good. It's groovy, loopy, rockin' and eclectic. There's no yelling, only singing, while the Automator brings on infectious beats melding an electro groove with solid rock 'n' roll basics. Who knew?
Decadence is getting rave reviews from mags like Kerrang, which recently graced the disc with 5 Ks (a perfect score!). And Head Automatica are already headlining gigs on this tour, which also sees them open for the Cure Monday at the Molson Amphitheatre.
No, Glassjaw is not dead. Just on hiatus for a bit.
Palumbo is totally excited about the whole thing when I get him on the phone en route from New Jersey to Rhode Island.
"Last night's show in New Jersey was my favourite Head Automatica show yet," he tells me. "We were headlining, which is crazy. I wasn't expecting that so early on, but at the same time, I knew it would be much easier to network than if I were some 18-year-old rookie coming out of the middle of nowhere.
"It's so flattering and heartwarming that people would care about something that means so much to me," he gushes. "This is the hardest I've worked on anything in my life. I honestly believe this is the best shit-kicking bar band in the world. I have the greatest fucking grimy rock lead guitar player (Brandon Arnovick) in the game! This whole project excites me so much."
The terribly enthusiastic Palumbo's also thrilled to be opening for the Cure. He claims he's been a huge fan since he was about eight years old. While he doesn't listen to them as much now, he really connected with them when he was 14 or 15, when he was "desperately living through Robert Smith," whom he describes as a very sincere, kind, soft-spoken man.
Palumbo calls his new musical direction "electronic cock rock. I like to think we're a modern-day Rockpile, who were the first and most notorious definitive cock rock band."
I wonder if the change isn't due in part to Palumbo's discovery of mind-altering substances. For 12 years he was "straight-edge."
I can't even wrap my head around that. No booze? No drugs? No nothing? You mean, like, not even a glass or two of wine with dinner? But I don't get to ask about this because as soon as I bring up the subject, Palumbo gets a tad defensive.
"I don't know why everyone has to ask about that," he grumbles. "I understand that it's something to talk about, but it doesn't have anything to do with the music. Yes, I was straight-edge for 12 years and I am no longer. I did claim at one point that I'd be straight-edge for the rest of my life, but people go through changes."
And he's just not so mad any more, which makes the tunes a little easier on the ears.
What was he so mad about anyway?
"Everything. It's in my nature to be disgruntled," Palumbo explains. "It's not something I'm proud of or that I enjoy, but the music was the release. And after getting so fuckin' nuts about everything and making angry music all the time, I just didn't want to be. It's not about revenge any more, and revenge was the sole purpose for every piece of music I'd ever created up until Head Automatica."