Throughout his career, Adam Green has turned his hand to a number of styles – and normally been a resounding success. From introspective and beautiful ballads like ‘We’re Not Supposed to Be Lovers’ to the brutally bombastic honesty of ‘Drugs’, and the peculiarly eccentric ‘Gemstones’ pop to the dastardly dark humour of ‘No Legs’, he’s a songwriting force to be reckoned with and also has a productivity rate to be admired. Now, after the success of last year’s three-song EP ‘Fall’, Adam has once again teamed up with Little Joy’s Binki Shapiro to provide the duo’s debut 10-track long player.
The first thing to say about the album is that throughout it sounds like it could have been recorded straight onto vinyl during the 1960s and the opener ‘Here I Am’ makes no apology for this. With the dual vocals perfectly out of time with each other, there are woodwind-sounding chimes and gentle strums of acoustic guitar as Binki seductively sings about ‘Looking down the line at you’. The pace is picked up as Bowie-style guitars and a full band sound indicate the opening of ‘Just to Make Me Feel Good’, while Binki interrupts and finishes Adam’s lyrics in a way that would be considered annoying by a real-life couple, but is charming on record. As Adam and Binki ask questions of each other, they resolve the conflict by repeating the line of ‘Ask me things with no warning’ over and over again as the song reaches its natural climax.
Not a single song lasts over 3 and a half minutes on the album, and with Adam’s trademark detuned guitars, ‘Casanova’ evokes this vintage feel even further. Expertly capturing the spirit of 50s Elvis, the song even includes doo-wop backing vocals to accompany Binki’s soulful voice as she sings ‘Why are you always hiding? Am I not supposed to look you in the eye?’ There are other moments that recall Adam’s earlier work too, ‘Pity Love’ has the spirit of his ‘Tropical Island’ while ‘I Never Found Out’ has the scuzzy sound his former band The Moldy Peaches were so lauded for. ‘Pity Love’ also contains the line ‘I offer pity love, sometimes so strong that you’ll fear me’, showing that Adam still has that cheekily wicked knack of injecting humour and just a little bit of incorrectness when you’re least expecting it.
Adam showcases his bombastic show voice whenever he sings on this album, no more so than on ‘What’s the Reward’, an Indian-influenced track where he mentions about ‘being threatened with the burden of a confident man’, while the unexpected but delightful upturn in tempo at 1 and a half minutes falls somewhere between skiffle rock and ‘House of the Rising Sun’. Despite his incredible voice, he also knows when to step back and let Binki’s gorgeous vocals take the lead with a number of songs free from his vocals. ‘If You Want Me To’ is a short and sweet song that recalls Rilo Kiley, especially in the subject matter – ‘I may be your baby but not forever, I’ll do anything, don’t you want me too?’ There’s also a beautiful fragility on show in the deliberately underplayed instrumentation of ‘Don’t Ask for More’, a love song fronted by Binki that is so full of soul, tension and intrigue.
With a mature approach to songwriting for the majority of its short running time, the album definitely owes a debt to Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, but there’s enough of both Adam Green and Binki Shapiro’s personalities shining through to make it a sparkling listen. With a change of pace at odds to most new albums you’ll hear nowadays, the cover sees Binki hoisted above Adam’s shoulders, but it quickly becomes clear that no one is holding anyone up on a pedestal – Binki and Adam are equals throughout, and the album is all the better for it.