If you’ve been paying attention to Adam Green’s solo career, which truly began when The Moldy Peaches went on extended hiatus in 2004, then you might recognize Minor Love as a simpler, more earnest, and perhaps less overtly irreverent outing. Previous efforts included gospel choirs, string sections, and all manner of orchestral elements, but these grandiose flourishes and production tricks are absent on this album. What’s left is a simpler, stripped-down sound that hones in on Green’s voice. Green is no crooner, and his laid-back and droll delivery carries with it a certain degree of sincerity and vulnerability that is aided by the simple guitar/bass/drums arrangement. This makes sense: Green played almost all of the instruments himself, recording the album in isolation as a response to his self-professed deep-seated social anxiety and phobias.
It’s hard to tell whether Minor Love is intended to be a bellwether or a break. Has he let the air out of his tires to fit under the bridge or was he forced to detour because the road he was on has been closed for repairs? It’s also hard to tell whether it will be able to stand on its own for very long in the eyes of anyone but the most devoted fans. His style, somewhere between Leonard Cohen and The Velvet Underground, offers little in terms of originality, and often the sappy and stoically emotional quality of the lyrics comes off as snarky. Lower East Side poets may be able to take something home from Green’s effort, but I hear a 14-song, 30-minute affair that drags and sputters like a poorly tuned buggy in quicksand. Sure, there is a bevy of clever syntax and intelligent observations, and there is only one moment of juvenile lyricism (“flatulent assholes” rhymed with “castles and tassels”), a sure sign of maturity and prudence. But my ears don’t hear much else being offered besides Green’s contortion of a musical diary, which I find ultimately tiring.
All that said, this is most likely a Green fan’s dream. He lays himself bare in a simplified style with few tricks, and so offers us an unbending snapshot of his life and outlook. (The exception to the ‘few tricks’ comment is “Oh Shucks,” which features some 8-bit sound effects, distorted guitar, and sounds like it’s being broadcast from a blown-out car stereo speaker mounted in a shoebox. It’s such an incongruous moment compared to the rest of the joint that it absolutely justifies “what the fuck.”) Throughout, his poetry is solid and delivered with subtle and subdued conviction. It’s bound to be a long career for Green, especially considering that he is becoming more popular in Europe (especially Germany). Although wryly self-aware, cute, and convincing are qualities some will find endearing, the overall takeaway for this critic is that Green is a little arrogant, self-absorbed, and talented in a terribly annoying manner. He may have developed a solid recipe for B-grade stardom, but he now sits in my stereo like the Rachel Ray of singin’ and songwritin’.