Adam Green knows what he likes. Since his days as a Moldy Peach, his cartoon universe has worshipped the same holy 80s idols: like Garfield, Mario, the humble Rubix Cube. His off-kilter baritone is also largely unchanged, and aside from the addition of concepts like blockchain as technology has expanded around us so are the style and content of his lyrics. But this is not what you’d call stagnation. If it ain’t broke, dear Reader, you don’t go messing about with it.
Adam’s tenth solo album ‘Engine of Paradise’ explores the relationship between humans and machines with playful eccentricity. In this reality, the afterlife is a harddrive we will eventually be uploaded into, and the world around us is constructed of papier-mache. Building on this chicken-wire framework, lead single ‘Freeze My Love’ riffs on the state of online romance, while the title track envisions a utopia of dismantled mobile phones and whirring engines.
‘Engine of Paradise’ seems to occupy a blocky, primary coloured world, but there is an underlying seriousness at play. On ‘Escape From This Brain’ Adam fronts up to anxiety with surprising emotional vulnerability, while ‘Cheating On A Stranger’ takes the opposite ground, presenting a spiritual detachment that is its own kind of risk.
Adam Green delights in the uncanny and the unexpected, so ‘Engine of Paradise’ has a few more tricks up its sleeve. The best of these is, of course, Florence Welch’s guest vocals. It’s an unusual call to have the actual Flo on your album and not ask her to do a verse or two of her own, but (you may recall) Adam Green knows what works for Adam Green. In any case, having Florence do backing vocals is a bit like getting Jimi Hendrix to play rhythm guitar. With her vocal contributions, album closer ‘Reasonable Man’ goes from being a sweetly plaintive musing on oddity, technology and identity to something more staggeringly cinematic. If ‘Engine of Paradise’ is our future, then it might not be so bleak after all.