Album Of The Week

Music review: British indie band Adult Jazz offer a canister of avant-pop fizz and spark

Vocalist Harry Burgess (second from left) of Adult Jazz says the title track was inspired by his brother's childhood experience of being bullied by an adult.
Vocalist Harry Burgess (second from left) of Adult Jazz says the title track was inspired by his brother's childhood experience of being bullied by an adult.PHOTO: TRI ANGLE

Adult Jazz's new album questions societal norms, from bullying to gender stereotypes

Somewhere in the Bermuda triangle, located between revered British heroes Radiohead and the joyous, tuneful alt-j, lies a less well-known quartet called Adult Jazz.

Fact: The band are nowhere near the Atlantic, but are from Leeds and - as those who have listened to their exhilarating 2014 debut Gist Is know - they do not play adult-jazz melodies.

They have unleashed their follow-up, a seven-tracker called Earrings Off!, and it is odder and more unrepentant than before.

As they explained on their Tumblr account about the seven tracks: "(The songs) kind of hang on the ideas of how we teach, incentivise and enforce gender, and whether we observe versus assemble our selfhood."

The songs take on society, embrace it, question it and play with it.

The title track is a canister of avant-pop fizz and spark, but fizzing in different directions and sparking all sorts of dangerous connections.

  • ART ROCK

  • EARRINGS OFF!

    Adult Jazz

    Tri Angle

    4/5 stars

Inspired by a childhood memory where his brother and pal wore stickers as earrings and were bullied by an adult, vocalist Harry Burgess sings in a vertiginous voice that swerves and dives and stops suddenly in its track.

"We make the boy a banner/ Heavy so he can carry/Carry but he can't look up… my brother punched and kicked his earrings off," he zeroes in on the constant bullying, adding that "He called me tiger/ And he ruffled me for sport."

He yelps, accompanied by a salvo of thumps.

Pivoted on loops that cave in upon themselves, Eggshell is a discussion of gender stereotyping. "I stuff my courage with a sock… And now the language is stuck/ Maybe the language doesn't know what's going on," he sings, a clarion call of humanity amid the digital meltdown.

Ooh Ah Eh goes out further on a limb, pushing language to its tattered ends, so much so it is indistinguishable from the musical instrumentation.

Against a peppering of heavily processed vocal samples, Burgess sings, strikingly lucid: "The pain of shame brought by my hand!"

However you may want to interpret the statement, one thing's perfectly clear: Adult Jazz do not take anything for granted, least of all themselves.

Neither should you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'Inspired by childhood bullying'. Print Edition | Subscribe