J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Now Departing

Adam Thorn and the Top Buttons
Where's the Freedom
(Ernest Jenning ; 2007)

Buried within every record are several possible outcomes. It can be overproduced and sound languid. Or it can be reckless and sloppy. And where an artist and their producer decide to land on that scale can vary widely - as can the outcomes. Sometimes overproduced equals mammoth rock and roll results. Sometimes it's just pompous. Sometimes reckless and sloppy can be ingeniously so, bringing a band's live fever to record. Sometimes it can just sound like a mess.

Buried within Adam Thorn and the Top Buttons' debut album is an example of where these conflicts go right. Energetic, loud, relentless over the course of 14 songs, it's the type of quickly recorded, easily bashed out record that leaves you humming all day long and jonesing for repeat listens.

The record opens with a jilting, tilting tear through the Soul Survivors' "Expressway to Your Heart," as appropriate an opening salvo as any. And then it's Thorn's show. It's a melting pot of a record: The Who and the Jam's mod tendencies, flouting the Nuggets box set as X steals their watermelon from the cooler. All the while it's Thorn's half-shouted/half-sung lyrics that take the command. At times his lyrics seem trite - but here's the catch - the lyrics that seem the least meaningful are often the wittiest and sharpest of the bunch. What initially sounds silly and cast-off reveal themselves as sharp bits of humor. "Slap Slap" borders on the absurd with its bent rhymes ("would you all like to play / a game of par-chee-zay?"), but manages clever turns by the end ("what can you do today / about the USA? / pray / smoke a j / vote yay or nay / do your part / marry gay") that make it insatiably catchy and repeatable.

But even with songs like this dotting the landscape (including the almost embarassingly David Bowie-copping "Savior Nation" - it only gets by on the fact that the heist is so obvious and ballsy that it makes it that much more clever), they are well balanced by sunny, working-man rockers ("Anynow, Anythere, Anyday"), biting, angry shouters ("The Kids Are All Wrong," "Rebel Without Applause") and nostalgic rambles (the title track). All of these piled within the framwork of the aformentioned mod/garage/post-punk influences.

And then the cherry that truly makes this record the gem that it is: a cover of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready." Sung in the same tone as the rest of the album, Thorn's voice transitions to something strained, hopeful, triumphant. Following on the heels of "The Kids are All Wrong" and "Rebel Without Applause," it's a sorely needed balm that ends the record perfectly. Where's the Freedom is a shining piece of rock and roll - no irony required.

Rating: E(xceptional)

(Rating Scale: A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y)

Decide for Yourself:

Adam Thorn and the Top Buttons - "Anynow, Anythere, Anyday"

Adam Thorn and the Top Buttons - "Where's the Freedom"

Adam Thorn and the Top Buttons - "Slap Slap"

Adam Thorn and the Top Buttons - "The Kids are All Wrong"


You can also check out that cover of "People Get Ready" by visiting Ernest Jenning's website.

Buy the album from EMusic.


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