Listening to an Atom and His Package record is like hearing a heckled second-grader cry out, "I’m not fat, I’m big boned!" You want to sympathize, even be a little nicer to the kid than usual, but you can’t help but snicker a little bit in the privacy of your own mind. The problem with reviewing Adam Goren, the human half of Atom and His Package (the "package" being his trusty synthesizer), is that although his humor is smarter than most other musical comics’, he’s still a novelty artist, and the music itself isn’t up to par with non-novelty artists. What he has going for him is that he’s bizarrely funny and he makes that effort to be unique.
The "Weird Al" of punk rock, Goren planned on ending his career with the infamous Package in April 2003 after he was diagnosed with diabetes and gained status as a "debut father." Hair: Debatable is the recording of his final show, performed on Aug. 29, 2003 in Philadelphia, and includes a bonus DVD that stimulates those who have visual cravings.
For those unfamiliar with the "band," which has been around since 1995, Atom and His Package is a fresh take on the musical humor of "Weird Al" and the Dead Milkmen, and has unexpectedly inspired exact musical replicas (Applied Communications, anyone?). This particular live collection demonstrates Goren’s ability to consistently maintain his youthful spark and squeaky-voiced enthusiasm despite twenty-six lyrically detailed songs and an endless supply of supplementary banter.
Included are favorites from the last seven years, such as the hypnotic ode "Pumping Iron for Enya," the racially aware "If You Own the Washington Redskins You’re a Cock," and a nerd-friendly version of Fugazi’s "Waiting Room." It also has the controversial "Hats Off to Halford," a homage to openly gay former Judas Priest singer Rob Halford for representing the little-known homosexual metal community. Goren has received much criticism for this song, thanks to misunderstanding on the behalf of Atom-bashers and general metalheads alike (demonstrated by hate letters calling him a "sick homosexual pervert," as well as the more creative "dumbest fuck on the face of the earth").
While his songs are a rare, amateur blend of seemingly pubescent vocals and guitar-laden synth-rock, Goren salvages respectability through the sharp wit he puts behind his conversational by controversial lyrics. It’s easy to let out an unrestricted "shut the fuck up!" at your stereo after a few songs have passed, because the nerd-punk itself can be a bit hard to stomach. But for those who can appreciate a musical comic who knows how to defend himself from critical, ignorant bastards, Adam Goren is a genius. Hair: Debatable sets the final touch on a fairly brief career that, while most likely having never touched lives or influenced anyone other than Goren’s mysterious friend Ralph, proved that a musician’s humor can slap the world in the face and still attract a cult fan base.