Adam Green’s days of nonsensical lyrics laced with unabashed horniness and feigned drug obsession are – for better or worse – behind him. His sixth album, Minor Love, offers none of Green’s trademark lowbrow brashness, and slightly distorted Lou Reed by way of Julian Casablancas mumbling replaces his once velvety lounge croon. Still, even in its relative seriousness and overall re-tread feeling, Minor Love is perhaps Green’s most satisfying work to date.
The instrumentation is sparse, with each tune focusing primarily on the acoustic guitar – which, in itself, is plunked and thunked with a delightfully off-putting amount of disenchanted abandon. Minor Love channels such ’60s American fare as Love – as well as the sort of unknown lo-fi garage sound of the Fabulous Courdels and Blue Embers. But Green’s primary influence is quite obviously Lou Reed and the original hipsters, the Velvet Underground.
A snatch of whimsical birdlike guitar echoes fly from the corners of Bathing Birds, sounding nearly identical to the opening of Sweet Jane. Similarly, What Makes Him Act So Bad comes across like a New York pre-glam rave-up, not unlike Reed’s Vicious. Green croons, “I know you’re the one with the answer. What makes him act so bad?” over chugging bar chords and bebop drums, accompanied occasionally by ham-handed fuzzy hipster-blues guitar runs.
Quite often on Minor Love, Green sounds nearly identical to Reed, and it’s easy to imagine him listening to White Light/White Heat on infinite repeat while composing the album. But hang on. Is that such a bad thing? There’s no completely obvious apery going on here. No song sounds exactly like anyone Velvets song, and there’s enough variation in Green’s approach that any one-to-one comparison would be pointless.
Indeed, Green seems to have a healthy streak of Brooklyn folk running through him as well. The album, in general, is much more relaxed than anything Reed created (post-Nico, that is), and while the whole thing has a vaguely hazed-out feel, the effect created is more stoner chill than frenetic heroin-induced madness. Often, comparisons to early Ryan Adams or Alien Lanes era Guided By Voices make just as much sense.
As for Green’s newfound lyrical maturity, the result is a mixed bag. Album opener Breaking Locks features the lyric, “When I took off my clothes, my body looked like 40 or 50 crows,” which is either genius or nonsense. The finger-picked ballad Boss Inside features the stunner, “He wanted me to kill him, but I took his life instead.” On the rarest of occasions, Green reverts – if only slightly – to the jokiness of Sixes And Sevens (as on Castles And Tassels: “Castles and tassels, and flatulent assholes. I love you always.”), but it seems that this time round, he’s attempting to come into his own as an adult.
The question is which version of Green today’s rock ‘n’ roll world needs most: the adolescent lounge lizard or the rehashed Velvets disciple who speaks in riddles? On Minor Love, Green presents the latter unflinchingly, producing something different – if not altogether so – and perhaps an indication of the direction his music will next take.