Atom and His Package: Hair: Debatable

Kevin Jagernauth

Atom and His Package

Hair: Debatable

Label: Hopeless
US Release Date: 2004-04-06
UK Release Date: 2004-04-19

Since the late 1990s indie rocker Adam Goren has forged a successful career in the punk underground with nothing more than a guitar and a sequencer affectionately named "the Package". Performing under his alter ego, Atom and His Package, Goren took his act on the road, performing his synth-punk songs at indie rock shows across the country and eventually, around the world. To the surprise of many people his shtick caught on and, four albums later, Atom and his beloved Package have decided to call it day.

Hair: Debatable documents Atom and His Package's last show and serves as a fitting closing chapter to the career of this punk rock novelty act. While many reading this will probably rise to Goren's defense, it must be said that his career has far outlasted whatever lasting impact his music has had on the punk rock community. With a nasal, high-pitched delivery, Atom and His Package is already an acquired taste; however, his choice of subject matter can be downright alienating. While some songs address wide reaching subject matter such as the Metric system ("[Lord It's Hard to Be Happy When You're Not] Using the Metric System"), politically incorrect sports team names ("If You Own the Washington Redskins You're a Cock"), or the silly ("I Am Downright Amazed"), other songs will only resonate with the nerdy and elite of the punk rock underground.

Only metalheads or the underground elite can really enjoy songs like "Me and My Black Metal Friends", "Hat's off to Halford", "Undercover Funny", and "For Franklin". To be fair, Goren has never made illusions about his musical intentions, and he is as much writing for himself as he is for friends in the scene. To his credit (though his detractors may disagree), Goren has never been condescending to his audience.

Running at 27 tracks, Hair: Debatable spans Goren's prolific career, capturing many hit songs (if they can be called that) at his last show at Philadelphia's First Unitarian Church (a staple venue of the Philly underground). If anything, this final recording from Atom and His Package is strictly a fan-only affair. Though the recording is better than expected (especially from a "band" that is nothing more than a voice and sequencer), these songs are largely similar to their studio-recorded versions. However, the bonus DVD that comes with the disc is worth price of admission. Fans will be able to watch the final show in its entirety as well as various videos and documentaries.

Novelty acts rarely age well. Whether '40s and '50s satirical icon Spike Jones or modern day parody act "Weird" Al Yankovic, there hasn't been a musical comedy act that has managed to transcend their trappings. Jones's style of comedy has quickly gone out of style and Yankovic's work rarely outlasts the novelty songs they're lovingly mocking. Goren has had a good run in the punk rock underground with his quirky, offbeat sensibility, but his absence won't be missed. He is clearly enthusiastic about punk rock, and it will interesting to see how a half-decade of scrutiny of the very music he loves will translate in his next, hopefully more serious band, Armalite.

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