What was the first thing that caught your eye about this review? It probably wasn’t the pleasingly minimal black and white artwork on the record cover. A more reasonable answer is that it was that bizarre extraneous letter K that’s somehow been wedged into the groups name; Adulkt Life. What does it signify? What is its possible intention?
Putting on our critical detective’s hat, we came up with three things the letter K could stand for: the first is an abbreviation for ketamine, the drug once used to sedate farmyard animals that’s become a recreational pastime for deviants the world over. The second is Special K, a breakfast cereal that’s been around since the ’50s and markets itself as a healthy way to get fit. Finally there’s K Records, the seminal US indie label that gave the world twee yet polemic releases featuring groups like Beat Happening, Mount Eerie and the Nation Of Ulysses.
Let’s look at the first possibility, amateur sleuths. Are they a druggy band? Well, there’s album opener County Pride that trembles into existence with some free jazz sax, before becoming a semi kosmiche screamo pile on. It’s a little more clusterfuck than Cluster. Shortly afterwards we get a track called Taking Hits, which starts with some serious Motörhead fuzz before derailing into an aggressive death match between Black Sabbath at their most ominous and Sonic Youth at peak spikiness. And yeah, there’s also a song called Clean (But Itchy) that’s even louder that both of those and more hysterical, resembling classic line-up The Damned tussling with My Bloody Valentine for dominance. But that’s only three songs out of a total of 10. So, if we follow that logic, it doesn’t seem pertinent that they’re implying a fondness for class A’s.
So what about option two, maybe it’s about stripping away the emotional fat and middle aged spread. The metaphorical corpulence if you like. The evidence for this being that there’s a song called Move, about gaining momentum, then Whistle Country is a pounding number about competitive rivalries and rankles with arrogant energy, and you could argue, that fitness is the underlying theme of album closer New Curfew, where the heartbeat drums and pulsing guitars get stripped back to the bone, revealing the sinew and muscle beneath. But that still leaves us with four songs that don’t fit that blistering mould.
And so we come to K Records and maybe here we have the answer. Chris Rowley, the brainchild behind Adulkt Life, has a not so secret connection to that label. Back in the early ’90s he was part of the incendiary riot grrl inspired collective Huggy Bear. Taking encouragement from the Pacific Northwest’s sprawling domination over the music scene, they mixed politics, queerness and feminism into their revolutionary sound and squeezed themselves into public consciousness. That was two decades ago, but the music industry has once again homogenised into a bland palette of acceptable RnB and anodyne pop teens. Drawing new inspiration from the fire and drive of those sassy premillennial insurrectionists, Adulkt Life prove middle aged doesn’t mean middle of the road.