Adulkt Life's 'Book of Curses' Is the Punk Juggernaut Huggy Bear Fans Have Been Waiting For

BY Vish KhannaPublished Nov 6, 2020

Close to 25 years since his inspired but short-lived band Huggy Bear broke up, London's Chris Rowley has finally reappeared in the ferocious new four-piece Adulkt Life. The poetic lyricist and singer has joined forces with Male Bonding's John Arthur Webb and Kevin Hendrick, and drummer Sonny Barrett. Together, they deliver a sharp post-punk blast of artfully rendered social commentary and uncompromising clatter.

The music made by this ensemble is truly something else; anytime you think you have a handle on something, like Book of Curses opener "County Pride," it slithers away in some unexpected direction. It might have two parts, it might have nineteen; such is the arrangement, which is a sign of things to come. Such is the herky-jerky feel of "JNR Showtime" too, a textured assault, as if the Stooges just arrived back after a fact-finding exploration of the musical future.

In the midst of such alluring noise is Rowley, a hazy yet ever-present voice. He speaks and screams with equal charisma, putting his thoughtful words across in a barrage of language that initially seems like freeform abstraction but, the more you delve into it, the more you pick out vivid imagery that connects together in distorted narratives. Just as the band begin to feel more steady and pop-like on "Taking Hits,' they collapse, find some new rhythmic wavelength, and then explode, smothering and electrifying Rowley in kind.

The roar of something like "Stevie K," so named for Steve Kroner, one-time guitarist for the Nation of Ulysses, feels like some primal release, whereas "Room Context" and the daunting "New Curfew" reflect containment and an eerie prescience, foreseeing all of us wearing masks and living under some authoritarian world of forced isolation and quarantines.

With a dark-hued punk band to draw his creative critiques out into the light, Rowley is firing on a high creative level here, not only crafting cool, substantive wordplay (for more treats, check out the poster-sized zine/lyric sheet that accompanies the LP), but also phrasing and singing it all like only he was born to do it. A bit of a crime he's been laying low so long but thankfully, Adulkt Life is yet another mighty, invigorating musical force he's a part of.
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