The latest album from Detroit duo Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus, otherwise known as ADULT., has been a long time coming. Six years have passed since the release of their fourth album Why Bother?, which was released to a mixed reception in 2007, with Miller and Kuperus taking an extended break following a lengthy world tour. The rest did the pair good and when they returned to the studio last year, things fell into place quickly.
While the original plan was only to record a couple of new songs, ADULT. soon found themselves with enough material for their fifth album, The Way Things Fall. Yet, despite the apparent ease that Miller and Kuperus had in writing their new album, it is by no means an easy listen. As with their previous work, ADULT.’s return sees them continue to focus on analogue synths and shrill vocals.
Those already accustomed with ADULT.’s sound – and presumably fans – will no doubt enjoy The Way Things Fall apart, but anyone with fully functioning ears may take a different stance. From the off, the pair indulge in jolting synths and repetitive drum machine-produced beats, with Heartbreak dominated by fractured and uneasy synth lines. “It doesn’t matter what you do/ it doesn’t matter what you say/ because of you I’m going crazy,” screeches Kuperus, on the opener.
Tonight, We Fall is an improvement, with its throbbing synths remaining constant and listenable throughout, while the fact that Kuperus’ grating vocals are kept to a minimum also works in its favour. The expansive – almost video game-like – synths on Idle (Second Thoughts) also demonstrate what ADULT. can do when they verge on a more pop-orientated sound. However, like most of the songs on the album, it is not helped by Kuperus’ wailing.
It’s hard to imagine how anyone could have heard Kuperus sing and thought “you know what, I would like to hear that again”. Her voice often sounds like one of those joke contestants on Britain’s Got Talent who believe they can sing – and put a lot of effort in – but actually sound like a cat being strangled. The ’80s synth line on Love Lies is perfectly serviceable, until she begins wailing over the top of it.
When the vocals are taken out of the equation, The Way Things Fall is actually one of the most approachable albums from ADULT., with the emergence of some sort of melody at times – if you care to look hard enough. The rushing synths on Nothing Lasts make it one of the best offerings here, as Kuperus sings: “I can see in to your mouth/ down into your throat/ straight to your heart/ tears me apart.”
There is no doubting the issues that are addressed by the lyrics, with relationships and the fragility of love a constant theme throughout The Way Things Fall. The spacey and wandering synths on A Day Like Forever present an ample opportunity for more cynical reflections about a relationship: “You’re intentions were kind/ but that’s not really you.” On it’s own, the song is captivating, but following the challenging first half hour of the album, it doesn’t quite hit home as it should do.
While ADULT. must be commended for their stubborn, single-minded direction, The Way Things Fall is another massive slog. Some may feel differently, but the duo’s introverted sound is uneasy and seems intent on alienation. ADULT.’s fifth album shows occasional glimpses of promise, but most of them are ruined by Kuperus’ singing – and that is used in the loosest possible sense. They may have been away for a while, but ADULT. remain as frustratingly unloveable as ever.