The Adored's eagerly anticipated debut album is a vibrant mixture of wry social observation and catchy hooks that packs a hugely entertaining punch.
The Adored have definitely immersed themselves, perhaps even wallowed, in the angst-driven post-punk that emanated from the slate-grey suburban streets of late '70s Britain, but this Los Angeles-based quartet are no punk revivalists playing Clash-lite songs for the beautiful people of the West Coast. Rather, as their debut album, A New Language demonstrates, they have created a fresh sound that draws inspiration from new-wave bands such as XTC and the Jam while managing to emerge with catchy three-minute pop-punk anthems that remain danceable even when confronting contemporary political and social issues. A fine illustration of this sugar-coated commentary on the state of society can be found on the buzzsaw guitar-pop attack that is "Savage Youth", with lyrics ranging from a pointedly vitriolic dig at the Enron scandal: "While we steal cigarettes they're stealing our retirement", to police harassment on the streets of Los Angeles: "These days are supposed to be the best of our lives but we get stopped and checked for knives."
The writing, though, was clearly on the wall for this band to deliver the goods after last year's release of the blast of raw energy that was their less polished but no less entertaining self-titled debut EP. This rambunctious calling card boasted guest vocals by Pete Shelley, lead singer of the Buzzcocks, who caught their first show in New York in 2004 and went on to hire them as support on their recent tour, and stirred-up a groundswell of interest from blogs, webzines and international music press that any band together for only three years would die for. Even the Los Angeles Times gifted them with the tag line: "What's not to adore about the L.A. quartet the Adored?"
From the first salvo of staccato punk guitar on the infectious opener "Tell Me Tell Me", the benchmark on A New Language is set high. Complete with hand-claps, rifling drums and shout-along hooks this blast of punk-pop energy doesn’t let up for one second. The high-octane enthusiasm is continued as a wall of drum and guitar licks ushers in "Savage Youth". Respite is offered from this feral musical onslaught by the summer-feelgood vibe of the ska-inflected third track, "The Queen's Head". Reminiscent of Liverpool's musical experimentalists the Coral, this song contains sound-archive footage of seagulls and gently lapping waves, combined with rousing harmony and raunchy sax, that make you want to head straight for the beach. The funky-punky party continues on "Ethical Drug", a rambunctious tale of intravenous drug addiction that bleeds seamlessly into the raucous call-and-response ode to every alienated youth in the audience "We Don't Want You Around".
There are standout tracks aplenty on this record, however, the highlights come in the form of lyrically rich mini power-pop operas. Take "The Window" for example, a despondent plea from a lonely soul who "takes in the free show" from his window as his relationship goes into freefall. Or "Hold-Up!", with its sharply-etched account of a nice girl who looks for kicks on the wrong side of the tracks replete with police sirens and sounds of breaking glass which recall the pulsing new-wave vignettes of Scottish band the Rezillos (later reformed as the Revillos).
The only downside to this near-perfect punk-pop nugget of an album is that the Adored didn't stop recording after the first 11 tracks. Regrettably A New Language is rounded off by three songs: "Not Having It", "Chemistry" and "Young Again" that, although not bad, lack the vibrant musicianship displayed throughout the rest of this riotous record.