Two albums in 13 years is hardly the mark of a high-functioning punk rock unit, but Desaparecidos is a Conor Oberst joint. The prolific Nebraskan hasn't exactly been resting on his laurels, with nearly a dozen full-length outings seeing the light of day (under his own name, Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk, etc.) since the release of the band's 2002 debut, Read Music/Speak Spanish. After reuniting for a series of shows in 2012, Desaparecidos issued a quartet of singles, all of which make an appearance on the spectacular Payola, a nervy collection of retro socio-political punk rock anthems shot through with enough pure '70s power pop acumen to ignite every lighter in the Nippon Budokan. Louder and more focused than its predecessor, though no less raw and impacting, Payola houses a laundry list of grievances, from the 1% vs. the occupy movement ("Left Is Right") and Arizona anti-immigration advocate and Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio ("MariKKKopa"), to senseless mall shootings ("Von Maur Massacre) and white collar crime ("Golden Parachutes"). The latter cut is one of three to feature a guest spot (Brooklyn punk rockers the So So Glos and Cursive's Tim Kasher join the non-pity party on "Slacktivist" and "City on the Hill," respectively), and it serves up one of the album's strongest melodic moments, with a fevered Oberst sharing the mike with Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace and the band tearing it up "White Riot"-era Clash style. Politically charged punk rock can be an exhausting and overtly self-righteous affair in the wrong hands, but Oberst and company temper their outrage with unadulterated melodic might, resulting in that rare protest album that rewards both the condemners and the condemned.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger