The Leonard Cohen of the Pabst Blue Ribbon set grows up -- a bit
In the video for Adam Green’s “Buddy Bradley”, the singer is shown ambling through the streets of New York City while bystanders look on, the way they would look at anyone being filmed like that. Adam Green has made a career out of this—being the musical equivalent of a guy walking down the street. He does do not much more than strum a guitar and sing words that sound much like speaking. There are no bells or whistles, he’s not much to look at, and you might just let him walk on by without a second thought. But as with all the people who walk by us every day, Green has a story. And if you happened to listen to the story he tells without much fanfare, you might be amused, you might be amazed, and you might be downright captivated. People are fascinating when you take the time to notice them. Adam Green, the Leonard Cohen of the Pabst Blue Ribbon set, is fascinating.
My first introduction to Green was his song “Jessica” (“Jessica Simpson / Where has your love gone? / It’s not in your music, no”), from 2003’s Friends of Mine. Seven years ago, Green could not have predicted the pop culture icon Simpson would become—back then, she was like Ashley Tisdale or any other blond “famous” enough to show up in the celeb weeklies, but not the household word she is today. I thought it was an extremely clever tune, and it stuck with me all these years, but it didn’t compel me to seek out more of Green’s work. I guess the song, and others with titles like “Choke on a Cock”, coupled with his onstage getups as part of the Moldy Peaches, branded him a novelty act in my mind. So the depth and personal quality of Minor Love was a very pleasant surprise.
While he sings on the opening track, “I’ve been too awful / To ever be thoughtful / To ever be nice”, it appears that Green has stopped keeping his audience at arm’s length with his snark and actually invited us in for a change. Many of the tracks, like “Give Them a Token”, “What Makes Him Act So Bad”, and “Stadium Soul”, manage to be warm, engaging and charming without sacrificing any of Green’s style. (There is no danger of schmaltz when a declaration of love is offered with the preface “Castles and tassels and flatulent assholes”.)
“Boss Inside” is heavy, “You Blacken My Stay” is Doors-y, and “Lockout” is nicely cinematic, with its “Scooby Doo”-esque bass line and spaghetti-Western horns. In “Bathing Birds”, Green proves he can still be brutal when he wants to be:
Mind your pubis
Find more schmucks to advertise
To all those special friends slated to meet you
I knew I’d never stay
I don’t believe you
Only “Oh Shucks” falters—it recalls less mature Green albums, or something that might emerge from a Williamsburg-Indie-Rock-By-Numbers kit if such a thing existed (including fuzzy guitars and bleep-bloop-bleep synthesizers). In the company of the rest of the songs here, it sounds throwaway. Because although he doubted the possibility at the outset, Minor Love proves that Adam Green can be thoughtful and he can be nice. What’s more, he wears it well.