As one half of the Moldy Peaches, Adam Green played the mischievous younger brother to Kimya Dawson’s solemn sister who just wants to be happy to great affect. With songs like “Steak for Chicken” and the timeless “Who’s got the Crack,” the Peaches were always good for at least one song on the mixtape. They were more than a novelty act, however, and their continued popularity is proof of that. It could be argued that they are more popular now than when they released their self-titled albums all those years ago, and their reunion will be of Pixies proportions. Well, probably not.
When the Peaches decided to take a break, the musical divide of the solo albums was as clean and divisible as Sparta and the Mars Volta. Kimya Dawson’s work carries the childlike innocence and wonder that made the Peaches quirky in the first place, while Green fulfills the quota of references to cock. Likewise, Dawson is quietly putting together a body of work that will become very influential one day, while Green is content to stay in the framework that the Moldy Peaches forged, albeit with more flourishes.
At a time when the anti-folk movement he toiled in is beginning to rise in prominence (Devendra Banhart, Sujfan Stevens, Joanna Newsom), Green has himself into a 21st century Jonathan Richmond (or at least Jonathan Richmond with a dirty mouth). A perennial 4-track guy, he stepped into a studio for the first time with Friends of Mine, a collection of songs that wrapped up his musing in an 8-piece ensemble, featuring the minor hit “Jessica Simpson.”
Gemstones is a livelier affair and better captures Green’s live act. In lieu of the strings that graced Friends, there is a heavier emphasis on the organ and hard acoustic strumming that makes up his band. The opening title track lays the groundwork for what the album offers; odd tempo changes, references to drugs, celebrity, random women, and an almost tourette’s like impulse to vulgarity. “Carolina” is a hotel lounge ditty that bears a passing resemblance to Neil Diamond, though his hit “Sweet Carolina” didn’t feature the gem “Carolina, she’s from Texas/red bricks drop from her vagina.”
There are moments when he rises above the childish limitations he places on his music. “Choke on a cock” finds Green getting political in his own style. Attacking both the president (Never got to meet the president/never got to shake his squirrelly hand), and Hollywood (“If Johnny Depp called me on the telephone/I would be the great singer on the radio”), Green’ captures the shallowness of our multimedia society and obsession with celebrity that made “Jessica Simpson” a great song.
For the most part, however, the album just falls flat. Instead of , Green is just content to make ironic pseudo-shock statements that triggers little smirks or rolling eyes. And he is coming up short in that department, too. There are two references to crackhouse blues, once in “Emily” and the song entitled “crackhouse blues.” The power in Green’s music (as well as the Peaches) is that it demands to be dismissed, leaving those who stay behind to enjoy the joke as they laugh at everyone else. Gemstones just doesn’t have that hook.