Not Ha Ha Funny
Adam Goren could have been a neurosurgeon. But something went wrong. He got a little black box—the technical term is "sequencer"—that let him write these perky little '80s-synth-pop songs about his friends, his family, his dog, whatever. So he writes some songs, makes some records, plays some shows, and then one night, 1,000 people in Philadelphia want to kill him.
"It's a really interesting feeling, being hated by 1,000 people at the same time," he says. "I was opening up for Tenacious D, and everyone hated me. Everybody there was yelling at me, threatening me, telling me they fucked my mom in the ass—and, you know, I was really very pissed with my mom about that."
But he wasn't really. Adam—who is as nice as nice Jewish boys get—loves his mom. In fact, he has a great relationship with his family. He took his mom's Ford Explorer on tour. He even took his grandmother and aunt on tour. "The over-75 demographic is extremely into my music," he explains. His bachelor's degree in neuroscience could have led him to a career as Dr. Goren, but instead his sequencer turned him into a one-man punk rock synth pop band called Atom and His Package. And we bet his parents are still very proud of him, even if it's not quite what anyone expected.
"It wasn't ever supposed to be a band," Adam—well, we should really call him "Atom"—explains. "It was just something to do when my old band broke up, and with a sequencer, I could write entire songs instead of just playing guitar in my room. I never expected to play more than two shows. It's like, 'This is crazy! What the hell am I doing in New Zealand and Australia?'"
And sure, it doesn't always play in the arenas. But you'd better believe there are basements worldwide where the kids feel a lot differently—not just New Zealand and Australia, but also Japan and Europe and whatever number of states that he can drive to in his mom's Explorer. And there are four full-length albums (most recently, the tongue-in-cheek-ily titled Redefining Music on weighty indie Hopeless) that prove that even if Atom started out as punk rock's answer to Weird Al, he has turned—maybe even evolved—into something else.
Old-school Atom and His Package jams such as the anthemic "Punk Rock Academy" ("We'll import a token jock/And kick his token ass/And there will never ever be a physical education class") and "Happy Birthday Ralph" ("I love you/Even though you're fucking disgusting") strut out of the PA speakers like Erasure possessed by the Dead Milkmen. But now Atom has just-as-catchy songs about politics, culture and even growing old: the song on Redefining Music that follows the rabblerousing "If You Own the Washington Redskins, You're a Cock," "Before My Friends Do," kicks off with the line, "I hope I die before my friends do."
He likes funny bands, he says. But he's past the steady-diet-of-Weird-Al phase. Call it funny but not ha-ha funny: you can make the kids laugh but still have something to say, and Atom hopes he does both—even if people miss something in the translation.
"I was in Japan, and I would have someone explain the songs in Japanese," he says. "I would talk forever, and then the guy would just be like, 'Bleh.' And I'd be like, 'You're done?' And he'd say, 'Yeah.' And then everyone would just look at one another, and nothing made sense at all."
Atom and His Package performs with AM/FM, the Kids of Widney High and Thee Makeout Party at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln, Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com. Thurs., March 21, 7:30 p.m. $7. All ages.
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