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Adult. - Why Bother?

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Artist: Adult.

Album: Why Bother?

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Mar. 13, 2007

Always a bit icy, each edition of Adult. has followed a different path below zero. Why Bother? drops the bass guitar that gave a black sheen to their synth 'n' caterwaul sound over the past few years. Now it's back to the blips, with every stab pushed into the squelching range. The pristine electro of their earlier work has accumulated road salt from the drive through death rock. They give us dirt this time, as scenic as that brown ice that builds up behind a car's wheel by the end of winter.

As their music has grown more detailed, the details have become ever more foreboding. The disco handclaps that lent goofy charm to an early track like "Nite Life" are still present in "I'm Inclined to Vomit" (predictably, one of the highlights here). But slipped between three other beats, the claps crack like the work of a chiropractor. The lyrics for "Vomit" are even less subtle than the title, yet the loops of crud and relentlessly off-center rhythms stagger into fully formed song. It's a common theme on Bother? - tunes bust out at punk tempos, glassy squalls fighting against the vocals with verse-chorus-verse familiarity rising out of all the twisting and shouting. The less ornate numbers come across more like instrumentals, even when Nicola Kuperus tries to sing. She actually carries a tune in a few spots here, a distinct departure from the constant harangue of D.U.M.E. and Gimme Trouble. It's a good strategy for making such willfully ugly music enticing. Each straight-ahead song has a hook, and while it's a hook weighted with hatefulness, it's something to grasp in the tornado of digital scuzz. The moodier and open-ended bits become a welcome chill out.

Why Bother? is the work of an "album" band, with their dance roots receding into the distance. There's a theme: the forces of conformity closing in, a disgust towards those that try to herd the sheep. There's the consistent fried-circuit sound. Two of the more fragmentary bits are the soundtrack for a video on their website. It's not a music video, it's more of an arthouse thing. Two figures wander separately, their heads cropped out of every shot. They keep describing the same geometric symbol- in chopped kindling, in embroidery, in blood. Adult. has become a self contained project - part music, part photography, all driving towards an aesthetic where the rusty and discarded and disjointed are presented with antiseptic precision.

If Adult. has forsaken the social functions of dance music, they still hold on to a few principles from their electro days; a willingness to go over the top without winking, rhythm kept as the centerpiece. The right beats can overcome the most haywire setting. "Nite Life" posed the question "Which do I keep / you or my nightlife?" The nightlife is gone, but so is any hint of daylight.

By Ben Donnelly

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