26 Feb 2024

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Adult Friends - Single Review: Brittle

12 Dec 2022 // A review by Nicholas Clark

In the contemporary music industry, there continues to be a use for genres to categorize products for easier consumption and describe artists for potential customers. True artists, pioneers if you will, often reside at the periphery of the conventions expected of them. Theirs is a process of expression rather than emulation.

Such is the case with Wellington’s Adult Friends, who possess the ability to explode into frantic energy, or burble menacingly ready to pounce. They play with elements of ambience to build tension, and with unusual song structures and complex drum patterns that make measures even harder to grasp, the potential for the onslaught at any second is all the more unpredictable… Having already seen the band live a number of times, I know they can bring a staggering amount of chaos to their shows, full of swinging guitars, brutal screaming, shockingly fast drumming and sounds unheard of in the punk scene before. But they are also capable of establishing the cool, detached atmosphere you might find on a Joy Division record.

Such is the case with their new single, Brittle a word that conjures the same oppositional forces at play, in this case, a material so hard it becomes fragile. The song doesn’t play the full range the band can perform, choosing to remain in the ready to pounce mode for most of the song’s duration. Their earlier single, ‘Ryan Gosling’, a tune dedicated to hiding insecurity, demonstrated their ferocity in an unbridled fashion. Unlike that single, Brittle plays with a type of uneasy tautness.

This song starts off with bass and drums, a quick roll beginning an odd hypnotic bass riff joined by dry, fuzzy guitar. When the double tracked vocals enter, they are cool and impassionate. “I wait for hours, just to find you waiting”, he sings, like he’s disappointed rather than angry, or perhaps not surprised. When you start to think he’s not happy, he contradicts the idea with the next line: “Deprived of you I’m free” as if to say he would have preferred waiting. It might be surreal stream of consciousness stuff, but I doubt it. The message remains on point elsewhere. The melody is a little Ian Curtis, although the young band might be more likely to cite XiuXiu for melody-ideas against a bleak, ambient background.

There is a palpable tension here; an unease that is building through the fuzzy layers, held together with the jazzy drums and the unwavering, marching bass line. Above (and, somehow, below?) the rhythm guitar, another heavily effected guitar weaves lines of sparkling vapor-trail. While the drums and bass are dry, and the vocals have just a little slap delay on them, this ‘texture/effects’ guitar remains the only instrument with noticeable reverb.

It’s a genre escaping mix of sounds, using the ingredients of punk. Overall the mix is, if anything, strangely 1980’s. The drums are mixed like electronic ones in the overall sound; the effect guitar has the frequency range of a synth, while the vocals are heavily compressed but nearly buried up to their neck in bass and guitar. It might seem odd, but it works. Finally, the chorus breaks the tension with some true melodic chords: “Your bones are brittle, just like a wishbone” he sings. It is a song of warning, perhaps a threat. “Don’t try to fly you might break your spine”. Without the use of rhyming, the syncopated words just fit, making them appear more like a mantra than something even trying to be catchy.

There’s a few other lines like: “I got your contacts right here on my phone, Don’t fly too high reception is shit” that utilizes the same syllables but are not quite as memorable, but at least they keep the lyric matter post-modern.

Then there’s the music video – unique, disturbing, completely unpredictable, (I was already scared from their last video, ‘Ryan Gosling’, which featured real car accidents and a warning before the video played). Two actors re-enact a dream, maybe, complete with surreal captions, gross food consumption and the questioning of reality all presented in classy black and white. Again, the inside of a vehicle is used. I detect a loose concept emerging…

Of course, as you might expect, the band picks up the energy and it disintegrates a little like a grunge song at the end, but there is some glassy My Bloody Valentine leads toward the end and some cool backup vocals that turn the once abrasive sound into something closer to a pop chorus. It sounds a little like an At the Drive-In song, but not a frantic one about fighting the powers that be. I’m reminded a little of New Zealand’s The Mint Chicks when I see them live, but this song is more like No Age, or maybe Wavves with an influence from Devo. But, let’s face it, no one would be playing music like this if the Buzzcocks hadn’t existed.

Brittle is impressive and interesting, unpredictable and original. What more could you want from modern rock than that?  

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Adult Friends

Adult Friends is a group of macabre obsessed youth who clash with an abrasive sound.

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