A long time ago in a land far, far down under, the singer in an overestimated ’80s band by the name-a Midnight Oil, Peter Garrett, once triumphantly moaned/queried “How can we dance when our Earth is turning?/How do we sleep while our beds are burning?” The answer to our Australian pal is “Slow down, Garrett. Go make yourself a Vegemite sandwich and perhaps pen some better tunes.” Because, in case you weren’t properly briefed, art is war — the world’s oldest and most effective counterballistic weapon. Art and music are supposed to articulate our strongest and most poignant sentiments as human beings staring in the pixilated face of horror and confusion.
From the early jazz age to proto-punk to techno, Detroit has been on the front lines of cultural resistance in times of disarray. Like a child going crazy with the finger paints instead of connecting the dots, Detroit’s artists have consistently displayed the natural cool of creatures that trust their own opinions of what looks and sounds good.
Last month was madness. Renegade loft parties found international DJs such as Traxx and Richie Hawtin rocking undisclosed locations until daylight. And it’s safe to suggest that you haven’t truly lived until you’ve seen flocks of middle-aged women violently backing it up while Chuck Flask spins DJ Assault’s “Ass ’n’ Titties” to the St. Patty’s crowd at Corktown Tavern. Only here could such things make sense.
Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller are full of stories from their rise to cult fame. With last year’s “electroclash” explosion and subsequent implosion — which found fashion victims by the thousands ripping their pastel clothing in defiance of sonic progress — their band Adult. has been dodging the hype machine after being wrongly thrust into the hot pink limelight. Now they’re hitting back with new material that’s neither electro nor clash. Discuss.
“I’d like to see someone breakdance to a song on our new album,” jokes Miller. “To us, electro means ’80s urban music.”
“I think electro is closer to what Keith Tucker’s doing,” adds Kuperus. “I love electro, but I don’t think it’s necessarily what we do. I think we do dance punk.”
“We weren’t holding the flag,” says Miller of the electroclash branding campaign. “The troops were sort of dragging us along. We think of ourselves as more of just a band.”
But the fad got ugly. At one point, Moonshine Records — known for pimping trends in electronic music — stooped so low as to blatantly rip off Ghostly International’s Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau compilation (which featured Adult.’s “Nightlife”) by putting out their own comp called Electro Nouveau. How utterly pathetic! Miller and Kuperus got stuck along for the ride when an Adult. remix was licensed without their control to said imagination thieves.
“We sent them a fax,” says Kuperus, “that said ‘Choo, choo! All aboard the electroclash bandwagon. No Way (in eight inch letters)! What’s the matter, Moonshine, can’t you sell any more trance records?’”
This Friday, Adult. is the featured act in the DIA’s “First Friday” series. Feeling lucky to be in their hometown where, according to Miller, people “just listen to the music” instead of trying to fit a cheesy prototype, Adult. will kick off their North American tour in the museum’s food court with songs they rarely, if ever, play live.
Alcoholic’s shopping list
This week, Untitled (happening every Saturday at the Shelter, 431 E. Congress) welcomes Stewart Walker and Greg Shiff. The two are currently touring the States on what is christened the “War on Boredom Tour.” Obviously, they get it. And, it’s at the Shelter! How perfect. Expect minimal techno that you can actually move to from these live performances — but don’t miss out on the backroom DJs, or you’ll be pissed.
“Ilitch Village” (as one Metro Times staffer brilliantly refers to the Fox/Sports-o-rama theme park) is still going strong on Sunday nights with Instant Vintage at 5th Avenue (2100 Woodward Ave.). Keep an eye out for nights featuring Theo Parrish to witness some of the best dancing in greater Detroit. Sifting through wanksters and the conspicuously wet-lipped beautiful never felt so honest … it’s weird.
Panacea (205 W. Congress, Detroit) has changed its schedule again, apparently refocused on bringing good music to the decks. Brian Gillespie, Blake Holmes, Jeremy Christian and Sindrone are now playing Fridays, and the club’s bringing in Gene Ferris next week. They’ve caught on by lowering beer prices and hooking up stellar DJs. Now if they’d dim the lights a bit, start mixing flavorful drinks and stop having people resolute on drying your hands in the can, they’d be totally there. The sound is awesome and it’s a great place to shimmy derriere, but (and this goes for every club with “bathroom attendants”) for the love of God (!) most of us have been washing our own fingers and palms since we were at least 23.Robert Gorell writes about the club scene for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]