Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Adult -- Why Bother?

Who wants to sex Rapaille?Somewhere on Long Island sits a mansion that apes the appearance of a fairly grand European castle. The owner is a charismatic, French cultural-anthropologist named Clotaire Rapaille. Dr. Rapaille paid for his mansion by selling big time marketers on the idea of tapping into consumers' "reptilian brain."

The reptilian brain is essentially the brain stem and is concerned with fundamental needs such as survival, physical maintenance, hoarding, dominance, preening and mating. The basic ruling emotions of love, hate, fear, lust, and contentment are, according to neuro-psychologists, also rooted in this structure of our brains.

Rapaille, developed techniques for studding how these pre-cognitive impulses affect the way we approach consumption and thus products as diverse as coffee, automobiles and cosmetics. However, had he not chosen to sell this line of thinking to Folgers, GM, Chrysler and L'Oreal -- he might have written a hell of a book on popular music.

Love, hate, fear, lust, and contentment -- that pretty much covers rock n' roll, doesn't it?

While the rest of our brains build off the reptilian elements to build deeper meaning, context and relevance -- many artists succeed by tapping into elemental emotions over and over with great success.

Hell-OO!What's Metallica with out hate, anger and aggression?

What's a cartoonish crooner like Tom Jones without lust?

And finally, if not for love, Lionel Richie would have had to send Nicole to a crappy private school ("Brickhouse" could not afford Beverly Hills Prep alone.)

Which brings us (finally) to Adam Lee Miller and spouse, Nicola Kuperus, Detroit's own Adult. (Ignore the period at the end of their name and you'll incur a wrath that rivals the war Doves declared on "the".)

Yes, have some.Adult. knows how to tap into reptilian fear; more specifically, a response most of us would recognize as anxiety. Clearly, this is something they never felt the need to be subtle about, naming a previous album Anxiety Always and tracks on the current album, "Plagued by Fear," "I Feel Worse When I'm with You" and "You Don't Worry Enough." The linear notes say, "All Un-Easy Listening Music & Lyrics" by Adult.

You get the point.

In a live setting, they employ volume and strobes to enhance the effect. But basically they have a few sonic tricks up their sleeve that are pretty tried and true.

Sped up, syncopated beats from vintage drum machines so that you always know they are electronically derived.

The first 4 Ministry Albums were recorded with this exact setupOrchestrated noise.

Ping ponging sonic elements around the stereo field so that the listener is never sure where they're coming from, and then occasionally dropping them dead center so they feel like they are emanating from the center of your skull.

Using eq filters to subtly shift the textures of sounds so that the listener feels uneasy due to the changes, but can't always figure out why.

Last but not least, shrieking feminine vocals of the banshee variety. Not that there is anything wrong with wailing, but the lyrical content of said screams isn't very engaging. Simple rhymes dominate Kuperus's punk rock shouts which give the lyrics at times a Hop on Pop Suessian feel that's completely incongruent with the music. 30 years on, Patti Smith remains a musical novice, but lieu of vocal talent at least the content of her screams can be compelling.

While this New Center couple may not intend songs like "Inclined to Vomit" to be taken overlyWarning, appearance may not improve in 3-D seriously -- they do intend them to be seen as "weird." The adjective and it's derivatives are used to describe the music and duo on their album. The black humor portraits of the couple in dour black regalia with bloodied decapitated mannequins are obviously intended to give the same feeling. "Weirdness" is suppose to imply deviation from norm -- but Adult. is more akin to the girl who dressed up like Robert Smith in your junior high -- a completely dated stab at non-conformity.

This is not to say that any novice could just pull this album out of their ass and on to their laptop. I realize it takes more than what I've outlined to construct an Adult. album, but unfortunately, not much more that's absorbing.

There's very little on this album that you couldn't find on Pretty Hate Machine 18 years ago. But Reznor also mixed his fear with anger and lust, producing a cocktail that stands up to repeat listenings. The unfortunately titled Why Bother? gets old quick -- the tracks operate at a very shallow depth, leaving very little more than traces of ear candy to sink your ears into after a spin or two.

In other words, when the entire construct of your artistic endevor is directed by, "look at me, I'm different" -- you better damn well deliver "different".

Rating: 2/5


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just reading that I feel panic starting to set in...

1:15 PM  
Blogger Gorilla said...

Well if you're going to spew, spew into this.

1:47 PM  

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