immie Trouble gave me a headache and slight nausea when I first heard it. The causes of food poisoning: broken-boned basslines, buzzing synthesizers that drain into the gutter, melodies that twitch like sprayed cockroaches in a dumpster, and how Nicola Kuperus punctuated her vowels with a yowl that can induce tinnitus at the right volume. The ipecac was potent.
The old Kuperus is gone. She was the siren who made robotic detachment so soothing—as if assuring us that everything was fine with the faceless bodies she notoriously photographed, even if they looked highly suspicious. She and husband, Adam Lee Miller concocted electro-funk and new wave that made me reminisce about good times that never were during the Reagan Dynasty. I vividly saw those evening skies that were moonless, but lathered in neons from the grids of freeway lights that cut through a plain, and the gunfire shot by geometrically stenciled laser cannons—just by hearing their best songs, “Contagious” and “Skinlike.” Adult.’s 2001 collection of singles, Resuscitation was the only good record I remember from the six months that a thousand listeners and a million lifestyle magazines paid attention to Electroclash ™. Adult. understandably denied having anything to do with that genre that converted the Brooklyn hamlet of Williamsburg into Gen. Y America’s cultural recycling bin. Adult.’s Detroit roots ran deep to the war drum beat of the factory assembly-lines that hypnotized the Stooges and techno, something that DJ Larry Tee and his ilk thankfully lacked.
And now we have Gimmie Trouble. Where they once seduced, they now aim to blabber their lithium-immune anxieties to parents through a glass window at a state hospital. Their sound has been tracking more mud into the studio since 2003’s Anxiety Always and Kuperus’s voice eventually broke further from the digital effects box, and got more strangled with each step. She now resembles the XXY-chromosome offspring of Siouxise Sioux and a howler monkey with her tattle-tale voice that yelps out the vowels—a method previously exploited well by B. Kerry of Adult.’s “don’t wave” compatriots Tamion 12-Inch. If anything, the music continues to emulate the sense of social paranoia and nausea addressed by the lyrics, but with worse taste. Tamion 12-Inch’s producer and multi-instrumentalist Samuel Consiglio is now an Adult, and simply sharpens the barbed wires. However, the substance of Adult.’s Information Age blues that well-described the atmosphere of connecting with strangers on the other side of the planet is lost. What’s left are the tantrums.
The title track opener gave me the peculiar image of Mary Poppins suffering an epileptic seizure while babysitting the runts she cannot control. Kuperus frolics her anger and pain away, with a dagger held behind her back. A synth exhales through pneumonia-addled lungs amid a tacky slasher flick melody—placing the listener’s head in a vice, while another synth wonks and blonks like a cliché Hollywood mad scientist’s laboratory. “Predictions are in / Nonsense seems to win / The air can get so tense / When directions make no sense,” our fair lady taunts with a nana-nana-na-na bassline on “Bad Ideas.” That just about summarizes this record’s essence.
Adult. does well when Kuperus’ persona does not overwhelm the music. “Lovely Love” is a nifty, synth-pop jaunt, while “Disappoint the Youth” humorously attempts a robotic-disco with the machines all rusted stiff. “In My Nerves” is worthy enough to do the Grapple to, if the teasing synth stabs didn’t betray the rollicking, flange-marinated goth bassline. There are other good ideas turned sour like how the wind-up toy percussion on “Scare Up the Birds” gets muddled by the text-messenger bleeps, but as said before intentional tedium is in top order here. “Shoulder blade stitched / Itch, itch, itch / Sinking in quick, so soon—so sick / A whole new twist, breakin’ your wrists / It all seems to come back to this,” as Kuperus puts it.
Perhaps Gimmie Trouble should be admired for how well it embraces and flaunts bad taste. If music is best judged by its immediate effect on the listener, this record succeeds and cannot be forgotten. In this case, that's not a good thing.
Reviewed by: Cameron Macdonald
Reviewed on: 2005-10-12