For Adam Green, it’s been a strange path from the the Moldy Peaches to now — unexpected, it seems, for audience and artist alike. While his partner in that former group, Kimya Dawson, continued to sing simple folk songs that walk a fine line between childhood innocence and frank maturity, Green has, admittedly, carved his own path. From the orchestra-backed swoon of Friends of Mine through last year’s swinging Sixes and Sevens, he has continued to experiment with his writing style, a mix of cut-up wordplay and irreverent humor.
The results have been mixed. While Friends of Mine was a breath of fresh air, capitalizing on the melodrama contained in the less-jokey songs of the Peaches, his follow-up releases saw him stripping down his sound. The rhythm section moved up front, and the strings all but disappeared. It was if he was retreating back into a comfortable sound — a slicker anti-folk. Sixes and Sevens brought back the strings, with the added umph of back-up singers and a horn section that gave the best tracks an extra-funky stomp.
With Minor Love, Green’s first for Fat Possum, Green has retreated once again, this time further back than before. Album opener “Breaking Locks,” a tale of relationships ending, has the intimacy of a bedroom recording, closer to his earliest solo material on Garfield. In fact, the entire album seems to have been recorded in a haze – every instrument (include voice) sounds soft and faded. The result is that most of the songs are stripped so far down that they lose any distinctive emotion within.
The only tracks that don’t sound restrained are “What Makes Him Act So Bad” and “Give Them A Token,” which rock and roll, respectively. These tracks all happen in the first half of the album as well, which closes with throwaway tracks such as “Oh Shucks” and “Don’t Call Me Uncle.” The former, especially, sounds like it was recorded by a kid in junior high school on his computer microphone, complete with monotone, speak-sing vocals, video-game keyboard sounds, and badly-distorted guitars.
What’s sad is that, lyrically, Green has matured (for the most part). The best tracks here still feature his distinct blend of surrealist poetry, but the music does not even meet it halfway. There’s a sense that as the songs become less opaque (and possibly more personal), Green becomes more uncomfortable. The result is a startling new intimacy I hope he continues to explore. All he needs to do now is leave the half-baked songs behind; even though they may be comfortable and familiar, they now sound old and tired.