context may not be everything, but it comes close. this theory was put to the test on friday at the adult. show at mercury lounge.
a few years ago, repeated mentions of their name along with the words "punk" and "electro," prompted me to check their website out. their raw, simplistic, underground, staunchly analog synthetic sound appealed to me right away. this was the part of the 80's mostly being ignored in the mainstream version of that decade's revival. it reminded me of a few of the darker tracks on my battered used copy of the some bizarre album. their striking DIY graphics and tongue-in-cheek photography also gave notice this was all part of a sort of postpunk art-school concept that had to be taken as gestalt.
however, when i got their first CD anxiety always, i was slightly disappointed. all the elements seemed to be there but the energy and interest were difficult to sustain for an entire album. still, tracks like "glue your eyelids together" (which has a great visual that goes along with it) and "blank eyed nose bleed" ("wouldn't it be nice to go to a party and be the only one there") appealed to my sick sense of humor. the buzzing monophonic synthesizers and cheap drum machines were making the kind of racket i liked as well. so i gave them another shot with their collection of singles and compilation tracks, and this time i was much better rewarded. so when i heard they were playing in nyc again i asked bianca if she was going, and got a "hell yes." ben snapped up a ticket on spec, but sadly they were sold out before angel or seze could get theirs. somehow nelly got in at the last minute; i never understand when this happens and i think it's unfair. is it sold out or not?
bianca was jazzed about openers gold chains with sue cie, so i checked out their website. i was instantly put off by the music. one out of three available clips was okay underground dance-rock, but the others were just not my kind of thing at all. i arrived at the club just as they were doing their last song. it was somewhat close to the track i liked (it may have even been that song), and i think they had a good energy that pumped up the crowd. they seem to be good at what they do, i'm just not fond of what they do.
adult. came on and looked pretty much as i expected: art school grad punks in black thrift shop clothes. anyone who says synth/drum machine-based shows always feature static or lazy performers should see adult. i admit they were not a visual and performing extravaganza, but they certainly were working what they had. vocalist nicola had to strike a balance between her dispassionate, siouxsie-meets-xmal deutschland delivery and keeping the crowd entertained. she settled on a disturbed, somewhat glazed grin punctuated by roaming eyes, demented stage stalking, and finger-pointing. the bassist seemed to be competing with 80's metal guitarists for "widest leg spread," although peter hook has him beat for lowest-slung axe. both he and the guitarist also had modest racks of analog synths and vintage effects boxes as well as the ubiquitous laptop for basic tracks. they clearly were making 90% of the music though, sweating as they changed up their catalogue in subtle ways.
the show definitely was more about preaching to the converted, although they denied the shouted requests for fan favorite "nausea". but for every familiar track, people erupted into furious pogoing, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. the sound was dead-on too, which is rare for this kind of band if the music's not all on playback.
i'm not sure what i'd have thought if i'd never heard their records or gotten into what i perceive as their whole schtick before seeing this show. i certainly liked a bunch of the songs i'd never heard before, but i think i had my ears ready for them. i concurred with ben's murmured assessment that night that they are a fairly monochromatic band, however nelly agreed with me that that's kind of the point. as a former art student myself, i can appreciate the use of a limited palette. a crappy beatbox, a bassline, a little dissonant guitar and synthetic squelches with tuneless vocals; what more do you need? how much more "we are punk so fuck off" can you get without becoming an unintentional caricature? the answer seems to be, create the caricature ahead of time and let everyone in on the joke. works for me.
the post title's play on words was used on one of the band's releases.