Jon Toogood has long been one of my favourite musicians; from the early days of Shihad he has consistently created strong rock songs, and the energy he has for music is always apparent, whether on record or performing live, so I was interested to see what he’d come up with as the Adults. The Adults is an opportunity for him to show another side of himself, a softer, more melodic side - although there would be some who would argue that Shihad have been heading in that direction themselves over their last two albums.
For those who still haven't caught the Adults story, Jon Toogood, during a lull in work with Shihad, pulled together half of the music community in New Zealand to collaborate on songs he had written outside of Shihad. Musicians from Dimmer, TrinityRoots, The Mint Chicks all feature, along with Ladi6, Julia Deans, Anika Moa, and the album was produced by Tiki Taane. If you're feeling left out of that list, stay tuned for the sequel when the rest of the country gets called up.
The songs definitely have a familiarity to them and at times are reminiscent of some of the softer Shihad tracks. This is definitely not a Shihad album, although it was difficult at first to put my preconceived ideas about Jon Toogood's songwriting to one side and give the album the hearing it deserved.
I'd already heard the first single Nothing To Lose, released as a teaser on social media before the album was released, so had some idea of what to expect. That track is a collaboration with Shayne Carter and Ladi6 and after further listening is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and definitely a favourite. Most Important, another Carter collaboration, also stands out, with some interesting vocal effects adding well to the mood of the song.
Some of the other tracks aren't as powerful and seem almost like filler, or an opportunity to dabble in electronica for the sake of experimentation. I guess that's the risk though of colloborating with such a wide and diverse range of musicians - your original ideas are bound to get diluted through the collaborative process, and direction gets changed. The weakest track on the album, One Million Ways, is unfortunately the second single. It's not a bad song overall, it just didn't seem to go anywhere and so struggled to hold my interest.
The best tracks do seem to be the ones where Jon sits back and lets others, Julia Deans and Ladi6 in particular, take over vocals, allowing him to concentrate on the instrumentation. Where he sings alongside those two, such as on the track Anniversary Day, it seems to highlight the fact that he's been shouting Shihad songs for two decades and his voice is a little rough for the softer sound he's going for here.
Tiki Taane produced the album from his home studio and it definitely has that level of production we've come to expect from Tiki.
I can only imagine how much fun it must be to bowl over to your mates house every day, get some friends round and record some good music together - because that's what Jon Toogood managed to do here.
After twenty-two years at the helm of New Zealand’s most loved rock band, Shihad frontman Jon Toogood has built up a treasure trove of musical connections. Lucky for us they have now collided, resulting in one hell of a project.
After a couple of years “collecting musical ideas” the multi instrumentalist began work in earnest six months ago on what has become The Adults, a celebration of his work with some of New Zealand’s brightest talents and an iconic Kiwi album in-the-making.
A truly collaborative affair, the project began with a wishlist of artists that Jon “loved, admire and respected”, all of whom jumped at the chance to work with him to create the eclectic tracklisting. The roll call of names on the album reads like a who’s who of New Zealand music, including names as diverse as Shayne Carter (Straitjacket Fits/Dimmer), Anika Moa, Ladi6, Julia Deans, Gary Sullivan (Jean Paul Sartre Experience/Dimmer), Nick Roughan (Skeptics), Ruban & Kody Nielson (The Mint Chicks), Warren Maxwell (TrinityRoots/Little Bushman), Riki Gooch (TrinityRoots), Redford Grenell (ex-Shapeshifter), Steve Bremner and co-producer and collaborator Tiki Taane. Collectively, the group is now known as ‘The Adults’, and the frontman says that after twenty years in the business it was definitely time that he “learned a whole new way of writing music from these people, who do it so well”. They too learned a whole new musical vocabulary from Toogood, and appear on this album in ways you’ve never heard them before.