Published Sep 03, 2019Engine of Paradise re-treads old ground for the Mouldy Peaches alumnus Adam Green. Not only does this album maintain the baroque pop style that has been a fixture of his solo efforts since 2003's Friends of Mine, but it's also accompanied by a graphic novel of the same name, set in the same universe as Green's second feature film, Aladdin.
In its entirety, this album is luscious, with a sense of '60s nostalgia that borders on psychedelic. Yet, Green's obsession with everything retro too often supersedes a need for variation across these nine short tracks.
It's clear from the opening track that the nonchalant style of Green's vocals during his early days as an anti-folk stalwart has all but disappeared. On the title track, Green displays a confidence reminiscent of the vintage crooners. The song, which is reminiscent of Harry Nilsson's work on the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack, displays lush string swells that surround Green's assured vocals. Moreover, the lyrics allude to notions of gathering, but are continually undercut by a dark and obsessive quality.
So much of this album centres on ideas of disconnection in an ironically connected world. Yet, Green's take on this zeitgeist issue refuses to feel stale. "Freeze My Love" explores the various contradictions that come with wanting true love yet feeling alienated from it as a result of the commodification of romance. Additionally, "Cheating on a Stranger" charts the tribulations of a relationship doomed from the start.
What this album lacks is dynamism. In creating such a grand, finessed record, Green has lost some of the charming blemishes that have previously characterised his music. "Escape from this Brain" begins stripped down. However, when swelling string sections seep into the mix, the song loses its delicacy and intimacy. This record's constant creation of baroque soundscapes quickly becomes tiresome and can't even be saved by some vocal contributions from Florence Welch on the closing track "Reasonable Man."
Green's latest effort is a pleasant and sometimes surprising record. Yet, the album's constant adherence an identikit version of the '60s crooners struggles to land any outstanding tracks. (30th Century Records)