Album Reviews

Adam Green – Gemstones

(Rough Trade) UK release date: 24 January 2005

He’s best mates with The Strokes, has toured with Badly Drawn Boy and Babyshambles and is best known for his own band, the ‘anti-folk’ leading lights The Moldy Peaches. So, presumably, with that sort of background, 23 year old New Yorker Adam Green should be one of the coolest men in rock.

Yet Green’s material is very much an acquired taste. The Moldy Peaches gained fame while supporting The Strokes dressed in bunny outfits, and sharply divided audiences with their ultra lo-fi sound and lyrical references to porn, blowjobs and general toilet humour. Green’s solo career is more sophisticated musically, but his lyrics still remain firmly below the belt (he manages to rhyme Carolina with vagina on one track here).

Gemstones is his third album in three years and is not without its charms. Green’s voice is rich and laconic, and the mixture of droll lyrics to sunny folk-ish melodies is unusual enough to grab the attention. The excellent Emily could easily be a hit, and underneath the genuinely catchy chorus is a sad tale of an alienated girl.

The highlight of the album is probably the uncompromisingly titled Choke On A Cock, a withering attack on those celebrities who suck up to the US President (“I would dance on NBC and say ‘George Bush shook hands with me’/Then I’d go and choke on a cock”). It’s when he strays away from the toilet humour that Green is most successful – the unexpectedly touching Who’s Your Boyfriend (“only you could break my heart”) is a country mile from the juvenile sniggering about sex with a larger lady on Chubby Princess.

Musically, most of the tracks are wry laments accompanied by an acoustic guitar, although the rocky chorus of Over The Sunshine, the Jacques Brel stylings of the title track and the almost jaunty Down On The Street make for welcome diversions. However, too many of these songs seem more like half drawn sketches, especially as the album limps towards the end.

It’s also fair to say that, like the Moldy Peaches, a lot of people will just find a lot of this album unlistenable. Tracks like the bouncy He’s The Brat become plain irritating after about 30 seconds, and many tracks don’t really sustain more than a second or third listen after the initial novelty of the amusing lyrics have worn off.

Overall, Gemstones is rather frustrating. Green obviously has bags of talent and is more than capable of writing a fine pop tune, as Emily proves. Yet this hit and miss album, while no doubt delighting Green’s hardcore fans, is likely to leave as many people cold as it charms.

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