The Adults – The Adults (Warner Music) CD Review

July 13, 2011
3 mins read

By now, we all know that The Adults is a side project for Shihad’s singer/guitarist, Jon Toogood, and we know that on the album he’s collaborated with his wishlist of NZ musicians/producers/artists/singers; a wishlist that includes Tiki Taane, Shayne Carter, Ladi6, Julia Deans, Anika Moa, Warren Maxwell, and others.
The question for Shihad fans will likely be: does it rock? But for the rest of us – who most of the time find that group’s music altogether too predictable, too anthemic, too rabble-rousing – the question will be whether Toogood has sought to raise the stakes and move into more subtle music-making territory.
The undoubted answer is: yes. Toogood, like most human beings, is wary of being typecast, and clearly has a liking for music that is in stark contrast to Shihad’s big gesture rock. Music that isn’t afraid to hint at something, rather than stating it in capital letters and adding too many exclamation marks at the end! Clearly (you can tell I like that word?) Toogood really, really likes Massive Attack and he also really, really likes Dimmer, Shayne Carter’s band. Combine those to main likes (is this review starting to read like a Facebook page?) with the collaborators he brings on board and what you get is The Adults, really.
‘One Million Ways’ is a Toogood/Carter collab which oddly, reminds me of Killing Joke, with its two-note vocal melody and dubby bottom. Oddly, because “the Joke’s” leader, Jaz Coleman, produced and heavily influenced the very first Shihad album. It could be, however, that the track is just betraying the influence of Massive Attack, with that group’s tendency to simmer its dubby stew in industrial sauce. To that end, the employment of Tiki Taane makes sense, with his tendency to mix grooves with industrial sounds. What I don’t like about this track, however, is a particularly cheesy keyboard sound. As both Toogood and Taane play keyboards on this song, the culprit could be either or both.
‘A Part Of Me’ is exactly the same length as ‘One Million Ways’. Isn’t that odd? This track is quite light and poppy, really. What I like about it, as with so much of the album, is that it doesn’t see the need to fill in the gaps. He could easily have added layers of heavy guitar, but it’s missing, which adds to its allure. Anika Moa is here, adding her lightness of touch.
It’s obvious that Toogood has been watching telly, with his scathing lyrics about selling your children off to Fox. Julia Deans is the other half on this one, but it’s not one of the strongest tracks.
‘Reunite’ also reminds me of Killing Joke at their dubby best. The chorus is memorable and, dare I say it, comes fairly close to potential sing-a-long territory.
Ladi6 makes her first appearance on ‘Nothing To Lose’, which could almost be Massive Attack with its dark narcotic feel.

‘Sleep Me Tight’ is another with Moa. It’s short, sweet with dreamy synth and acoustic guitar.
Carter is back on ‘Most Important’, and it sounds like early Dimmer: in other words, it sounds like Shayne Carter doing Massive Attack his way. It’s very good. Carter is also the primary collaborator on ‘Up And Gone’, a very downbeat track that seems full of regret. Although he uses the line “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s up and gone”, which almost mimics Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, in every other way the two tunes are unalike.
Julia Deans returns on ‘Everyday I Wake Up’, another tune that has that Massive Attack feel, as does the very dark, dread-filled sound Shayne Carter’s last main-stage appearance, ‘Long Way Off.’ And then it’s into another tune with Deans, and it’s the closest we get to what the average Shihad fan might call mush, because it’s got orchestral elements, and is more or less a ballad. Heck.
The grand finale is the Ladi6 epic ‘Please Wake Up’, eight minutes of drone and emotion.
The self-titled debut by The Adults is a pretty good album, all told. Because of the wide stylistic range of its collaborators, it’s not bound by the usual rules, so there are pop, rock, dub, industrial and many other influences buried in this mostly excellent bunch of songs.
I do have a few niggling doubts, however. Is it more than the sum total of its collaborators? Have The Adults got a sound of their own? If there’s a second album, will they be the same bunch, or a different selection? This debut is Toogood stretching his wings, but outside of his parent band, he still hasn’t quite found his feet. Sometimes, it feels as if he’s so overwhelmed by the people he’s working with that he’s taking a back seat, and while that’s okay, and The Adults is a pretty good outing, somehow the aftertaste isn’t quite as lingering as I would hope it to be. GARY STEEL
Sound = 3.5
Music = 3.5

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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