Adult.: Why Bother?

[11 May 2007]

By Lester Feder

Why Bother? Indeed.

Anticipating that listeners might have a negative reaction to their fourth album, Adult. released an explanatory letter arguing why “you should care” about a collection they describe as “uneasy listening music for uneasy times” electronica. This husband-and-wife Detroit duo assert their album is a kind of “folk music” where “folk” means both “a culture content to operate ‘outside’” and “the place where we are most at ease.” Yet they also want this album to convey a paranoid landscape in which “we feel the pack is always coming, coming to misdeed,... [that] leads to our continual unease.”

How can an album both capture the place where we are most at ease and also represent continual disease? If there’s a solution to this aesthetic challenge, Adult. hasn’t found it. Sadly, this collection of warmed-over rhythm tracks, low-fi sci-fi sound effects and screechy vocals left me more irritated than unsettled. By the third track based on the same formula, I felt like I was trapped in a post-apocalyptic Legend of Zelda. I’m no big video game fan, but I was jonesing for a game controller, if only to give me something to break up Adult.‘s musical monotony.

Maybe it’s just me, but ugly and dissonant soundscapes only capture a feeling of social alienation if they contain enough of a human element to draw me in. Two songs were moderately engaging on that level. “You Don’t Worry Enough”‘s danceable rhythm track and recognizeable punk song structure is a nice break from the rest of the album’s formless noise. And Why Bother?‘s minimalist closing track, “Harvest,” built around a repeating pair of ringing tones suggests nature’s struggle to hang on after technology has destroyed the wilderness, like the kind of song whales might sing in The Matrix. But these songs don’t save the album. I wouldn’t bother, if I were you.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/adult-why-bother/