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Adam Green – Minor Love

on March 08, 2010, 8:00am

Through the magic of technology, there’s a video out there of Adam Green interviewing himself, asking the question, “If you could bang any person in the world, who would you bang and why?” The answer isn’t really worth repeating. Not because it’s ridiculous (which it is), but because it isn’t funny. Green had been writing oversexualized (mostly penis) jokes for his albums all the way up until Minor Love, his latest record. You just took it for granted: Adam Green record, dick commentary. And violence. And nonsense. Sex and violence are Green’s peanut butter and jelly. So on Minor Love, an album that’s damn close to squeaky clean, it’s hard not to wonder, “What happened to Adam Green?” Where’s the guy who prided himself on being aloof, not making sense, and working hard to be unlikable? Being a cartoon is a tough job, and whatever the reason, Green has strayed from the expected.

On the opener, “Breaking Locks”, “I’ve been too awful to ever be thoughtful, to ever be nice” sounds like a confession rather than deadpan sarcasm, and the song title “What Makes Him Act So Bad” could signal self-reflection; however, all of this newfound depth and character are unavoidably awkward coming from the mouth of Green. What would happen if all of a sudden Hugh Hefner sold the Playboy mansion and took to televangelism? It’d probably take him a while to get the altar calls down and the comb over just right. Green seems to be suffering from such a change of scenery.

Green, planted firmly in the culture of anti-folk, relies heavily on pop music from bygone eras, mostly the ’60s. Minor Love showcases this even more than previous records. “Give Them a Token” presents the proper orchestration, bell clinks, and sing-song refrain that appear on a Petula Clark record circa “Downtown”. “Breaking Locks”, complete with mournful organ and 7th chords, recalls early-’70s Tom Waits. Musically, the homage is pretty spot on, in the same way Scorsese borrows from Hitchcock rather than trying to remake him. Minor Love‘s first couple of tracks will remind you why all those 30-year-old pop records are worth digging up, but unlike Scorsese, Green doesn’t have the chops to stick the landing of the record. About halfway through, it’s like watching Gus Van Sant remake Psycho: Everything falls apart. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the track “Oh Shucks” – a garage-rock bust. The lyrics are akin to a middle-school love letter. Did Green even try? Fuzzed, repetitive guitar lines nearly drown out the vocals – which actually works somewhat in the song’s favor. No one wants to hear Green sing, “You’re a scumbag, and I’m sad about that. Oh shucks.” Intentionally ridiculous lyrics are still ridiculous here. It’s as if halfway through the album Green realizes his foray into authenticity is yielding only slightly above-average results and decides to scuttle the album.

The real shame is that had Green followed through on the promise of the first couple of tracks, he could have moved away from past albums and grown a bit in the process. Yeah, the album would have been mostly average, but it could have laid the groundwork for something more the next time around. This isn’t to say that everything Green has done in the past isn’t worth listening to. Some of it is quite good – see the song “Jessica” if you aren’t convinced; however, Green’s clear pride in being obtuse and difficult hasn’t always been equated with misunderstood genius.

When the Juno soundtrack single “Anyone Else But You” saw the light of day, the general population had never heard of Adam Green’s former band, The Moldy Peaches. All of a sudden, Ellen Page as a sassy pregnant teen was winning over the masses. Minivan speakers everywhere buzzed with indie patriotism. Green talked to Whoopi Goldberg on The View. For a brief moment, Green capitalized. If we face facts, Juno is likely the only reason anyone knows who Adam Green is at this juncture in his career. The first couple of above-average tracks of Minor Love sound like a compromise to the soccer moms of the world; the second half of the album is lackluster and tedious but without the unfocused vitriol of Green’s earlier work. It’s enough to almost wish Green had gone back to his fascination with non sequiturs and body parts.

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