Adam & Elvis (who are not a duo at all, and feature neither an Adam nor and Elvis) claim to be the sole purveyors of ‘frustrated pop’. That label sums up their screwball musical antics as well as any. The British quartet, build around brothers Pat and Tom Malone, ply their trade with elastic basslines, cool-cat synthesizers and lyrics as snappy as a freshly-pressed three-piece. You might call them one of the last new wave bands, tapping the anxious emotive vocals and taste for experimentation that once marked out Talking Heads or Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. But thanks to a penchant for rough-edged acidic guitars, Adam & Elvis refuse even that pigeonhole. They’re like a spirited trout constantly leaping out of the net, and full-length release ‘Through Snow & Small Talk’ is a fair introduction.
Opener ‘Modern Hitz’ about sums up Adam & Elvis’ modus operandi. A swanky synthesizer and an energetic bass lead the charge in this quasi-eighties dance-punk track. Pat Malone’s urgent baritone conjures all the best bits of Brian Ferry and Richard Butler, delivering killer zingers with a heavy dose of cynicism. ‘Please may I have a kiss? What the hell d’you think I’m dancing for?’ is just the kind of diamond-tipped self-awareness that’s missing from your factory standard dancefloor filler. Frustrated pop indeed.
The rest of the album swings in and out of this mould, with the synths and Malone’s wobbling vocals the only real constants. The catchy ‘Wasting Away’ rubs shoulders with late-era Cure, whilst the upbeat ‘Hanging Tree’ scrumps apples from the proto-Britpop orchard with an alternative guitar and a chorus fit for The Las. There’s a conscious punkish energy simmering under the album too. ‘Thick Bob’ sees the band nip into CBGBs for a quick one, going all Strangers with an upturned-collar guitar line and an orcish Laandaaan twang.
In an album filled with dalliances, it could easily sound unfocused. Tracks by different artists all cobbled together. But it doesn’t. Adam & Elvis have their own style running through it all. Not just the bedroom synthesizers and the Malone brothers’ not-insignificant charisma. Their songwriting’s chief merit comes from the ‘pop’ side of ‘frustrated pop’. They may be wacky, weird, and sometimes abrasive, but Adam & Elvis’ songs are devilishly singable. Much like The Pixies before them, they have a real talent for making something both utterly bizarre and totally accessible. It’s a skill that’s served them well for ‘Through Snow & Small Talk’ and there’s no reason to believe it won’t continue to do so.
‘Through Snow & Small Talk’ is out now via Freak Power. The full track listing for the album is as follows…
1. Modern Hitz
2. Thick Bob
3. Hanging Tree
4. The Artiste
5. Snow Talk
6. Wasting Away
7. She Bites Mosquitoes
8. Darker Than Black
9. Cruel As Winter
10. Through Snow and Small Talk