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Adult. - Anxiety Always

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Artist: Adult.

Album: Anxiety Always

Label: Ersatz Audio

Review date: May. 8, 2003

All Growns Up


To those who detest the comic-bookish faux personas invented by electro musicians, and who think that being cryptic is tantamount to snobbery, the Detroit duo Adult. may be one of the most frustrating bands on the planet. Their paranoiac lyrics and resistance to celebrity can make them difficult to embrace. But their world of anonymous, implied violence is just as humorous as it is vague, and at the end of the night it's meant to be fun. Even as their music remains sterile and distant, artists and people can't help but to seep into their music. As with all the electro artists who "hide their identity," a sense of humor and adventure is helpful in confronting Adult.ís music.

Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus (Adult.) recently answered some interview questions for a six-year old named Lucas, who was apprised of the band's existence by his father. The young interviewer asked at one point in the dialogue, "whenever my little brother Nolan (he's 3) hears the "Pressure Suit" song he spins around then lands on his butt and then spins around on that! What do other people do when they hear your songs?"

Perhaps there should have been some reticence in Adult.'s answer, since most of their fans simply follow their lead on stage by standing rigidly at attention, but they responded, "We wish everyone reacted like Nolan . . . some people just stand and don't move, and that makes us bored."

And it is precisely that boredom which seems to have inspired the first real change in Adult.'s artistry since they began in 1998. While Miller and Kuperus have consistently taken cues from cyber-eschatological futurists like Gary Numan, they have never convincingly crossed the line between electro and post-punk. On their first four 12-inches, Kuperus clamored in a characteristic monotone drenched by effects, but she never really sang. Her iciness was a good gimmick, but it could be construed as a manifestation of self-consciousness. On Anxiety Always, Adult.'s newest release and first ever full-length of original songs, she sings. Now no one stands still at their shows, including Nicola Kuperus.

The precedence of past instrumental melodies like "Human Wreck" and "Hand-to-Phone" has diminished to make room for Nicola's singing, which while exhibiting more range than before isn't exactly melodic. On many of the new songs, especially "Turn Your Back," her newly-liberated voice is the principal highlight. Thus the songs are generally muddier and, while most are still pretty dancey, have more in common with the uglier side of electro than anything the group has produced thus far. Even the instrumentals, "The Cold Call" and "Nervous Wreck," are dark and choppy like Throbbing Gristle.

The true dance hits, "Glue Your Eyelids Together," "Nothing of the Kind," and "Kick in the Shin," contain inexplicable, playfully violent lyrics like:

"Kick in the shin / Is that how you say 'I love you'?" and,

"Glue your eyelids together /Glue your eyelids together."

These three songs are more similar to Adult.'s older material, featuring garden variety, pulsing electro basslines and pop-song composition. But with Kuperus exhibiting more of her punk influences, the supposed dance songs sound like techno gone haywire.

Making a full record entails some degree of conceptual planning, and no doubt that has affected Adult.'s sound as much as anything, especially since they've never done it before. Anxiety Always shows Miller and Kuperus trying a lot of new ideas and singing with much more range and emotion. It's a deviation from the relative simplicity of their 12-inches, and tends to meet with success. Even in the current re-cycle of post-punk bands, there is no one doing anything quite the same as Adult. This record will, in its eccentricities, distance the group from electroclash and (on the basis of being available on CD) endear them to many new fans outside of DJ culture.

By Ben Tausig

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