[6 August 2002]
Is there really anyone out there who can’t spare some love for Atom and his Package? I mean, really, has a more endearing character ever walked the earth? In case you have no idea what I’m talking about here, let’s have some background: Atom is Philly native Atom Goren, and his Package is his trusty Yamaha sequencer, on which he programs the beats and bleeps and bloops that infest his songs. Now, don’t get the idea that Atom is some electronica-spewing tech-head—he uses said synth to craft some of the most infernally catchy, devilishly clever pop songs you may have ever heard. Lest the whole thing become too synth-heavy, Atom also utilizes a trusty BC Rich guitar as part of his arsenal, with which he contributes crunchy riffs to the proceedings. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Atom has made a career out of pissing off self-righteous punk rockers, and delighting pretty much everyone else with his entertaining antics. Some of his most notable moments thus far have included an earnest mash note to Enya (called “Pumping Iron for Enya”, no less), a righteous argument on why the US should switch to the metric system immediately if not sooner, and an explanation of why “If You Own the Washington Redskins, You’re a Cock”.
This time around, Atom offers up five more delectable slices of raucous, rockin’ synth-pop. The leadoff track, “I Am Downright Amazed at What I Can Destroy With Just a Hammer”, is a heartwarming ode to home remodeling: “Me and Jenn and Brian got a pretty little home/It was cheap-ish, and we split it, and we’re fixing it some/Mr. Sokel does everything, rewires, fixes cracks/I can only break walls, move stuff and get snacks”. Atom, as usual, makes constant references to his friends throughout Hamburgers—while “I Am Downright Amazed” is about the home he just bought with his friends (Mr. Sokel is the same Brian from the first verse, and is also the ex-leader of the band Franklin, and the current proprietor of AM/FM), “Sebastian in Nigeria” is about a friend of his who drove across the Sahara desert when he was 19, and “Wonderman (Hammer Smashed Ball)” is about a high school friend of his who turned to “the dark side” (i.e., he evidently helped in the legal defense of G.W. Bush in the 2000 election debacle). While you might expect that this would result in an inside joke-ridden debacle only enjoyable for the people serenaded in Atom’s songs, this is thankfully not the case. While he does sing about specific people that he knows, he has the knack for transforming these personal anecdotes into universally appealing pop songs.
Atom’s cover of AM/FM’s “Head Gone Vertical” continues his trend of excellent covers (he’s covered artists as diverse as Madonna and The Mountain Goats—on the same album, no less), and, as the song was originally performed by the aforementioned Mr. Sokel, continues the trend of friend worship that pervades Atom’s work.
Although at five songs and under 20 minutes, Hamburgers is a fairly brief offering, it serves as a perfect introduction to the Atom newbie who’s not quite sure if he or she wants to splurge for a full-length, as well as, of course, tiding over his rabid fanbase until a new full-length drops.