Popaganda was Doug & The Slugs first effort for A&M after being dropped by RCA for failing to connect with an American audience. Presumably the band was eager to please their new label (as well as anxious to show RCA that they had made a mistake), so their fourth album finds Doug Bennett and his cohorts trying hard to make their commercial breakthrough. To that end, they downplay their comedic side, make their tunes tighter, brighter and poppier than ever, and even enlist hitmaker Eddie Schwartz to co-write a track. Musically, these were the right decisions to make -- The Slugs never sounded better than they do here, breezing their way though the upbeat numbers like a tighter Mental As Anything or a more pop-oriented David Lindley & El Rayo-X. Lyrically, however, Popaganda is a bit of a letdown. After three albums filled with offbeat, tongue-in-cheek humour, Popaganda's generally straightforward (if thoughtfully written) love songs seem somewhat pedestrian in comparison.
Still, thoughtful pop music of any stripe isn't a commodity to be dismissed lightly, and Popaganda works reasonably well for those looking for frothy, disposable kicks. Among the high points are the first four tracks: the anthemic singles "Day By Day" and "Love Shines"; the wry "Dancing On The Powerlines", which condemns the arms race to a polished garage-band beat; and "I'm The One" which has Doug detailing a botched seduction whilst a percolating rhythm battle develops underneath him between bassist Steve Bosley and guitarists Rick Baker and John Burton. After that, things get a little predictable and same-y, but the Slugs' level of musicianship seldom falters, keeping Popaganda listenable throughout, and resulting in a record that's essentially fun, if actually somewhat inessential in comparison to Doug & The Slugs' best work.