Adult. certainly seem to approach their music with a sense of humor, but not everyone can reasonably be expected to get the joke. Anxiety Always bears Nicola Kuperus’ trademark detached-yet-sassy vocals, and the driving rhythms here seem designed to match the lyrical taunts. The Detroit duo, comprised of Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller, has been at this retro electro thing a bit longer than most, having gotten together in 1998, but Anxiety Always is their first proper album, having released only EPs, singles and compilations previously. The songs collected here sometimes linger on a bit too long, which would endlessly irritate those who don’t like this kind of thing. But fans will appreciate not only the smart, well-constructed songs, but also the bit of daring with which Adult. seems to approach them.
The songs on this aptly titled album are unified by a palpable musical tension that is at times lessened and at other times enhanced by Kuperus’ sometimes threatening, sometimes funny delivery. The instrumental opener "The Cold Call" establishes this feeling at the onset, and "Shake Your Head" finds Kuperus making demands: "If you don’t know/ Ask your mother."
"Glue Your Eyelids Together" is nicely grounded in Miller’s live bass, while "Blank Eyed, Nose Bleed" and "Turn Your Back" (complete with a few neh neh nehs) showcase Kuperus at her most flamboyant. The final two songs here are perhaps the best. "We Know How to Have Fun" creeps forward on crunchy, spooky synth lines and sounds weightier than anything else here. The snaky "Kick in the Shin" modulates between darker and brighter tones, ending badly on "Goodbye."
Many of the tracks here are less immediately catchy than some of Adult.’s earlier releases, which may be because the emphasis lies less on the beats and more on what’s going on around them — this complexity is exactly what distinguishes Adult. from their peers. Other electronic acts that have flashy live shows sometimes make music that doesn’t translate to your home stereo with the same charm, but Anxiety Always is more versatile — good for dancing, good for driving … even good for cleaning the house.