Morningwood, with Head Automatica

at the Roxy, January 27

Puffed with major-label hot air, Morningwood enter to a stuffed ‘n sweaty Roxy, but aside from self-consciously kooky, breast-obsessed frontwoman Chantal Claret — the retro-pop Kate Bush — this is another workmanlike new wave rehash. One flamboyant character does not a great band make: worthy, but not panty-wetting.

Head Automatica have no gimmicks (unless sharing vocalist Daryl Palumbo with Glassjaw counts) but many tunes. Their 2004 debut, Decadence, was a patchy affair: classic, Squeeze-ish pub-rock songwriting diluted by relatively monotone beat-fests from then-collaborator Dan the Automator. Now Automator-free, Head A. are fully realizing their power-pop potential.

Decadence standouts “Beating Heart Baby” and “Dance Party Plus” retain their heady, best-date-ever charms but sorely miss any semblance of backing vocals. The impish Palumbo assails the front rows with hardcore-honed aplomb and succulent pipes (an unlikely simul-spewing of Elvis Costello and Mike Patton) while his band mates finesse arrangements which’re equally EMF and the Attractions.

Unlike Morningwood, Head Automatica have the compositional chops and vocal charisma to let content trump style. Judging by newies like the Joe Jackson-esque “Laughing at You,” their just-completed sophomore effort, Popaganda!, should be this summer’s sing-along soundtrack — don’t fight it.

—Paul Rogers

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