California band Adult Books straddle a tricky line between indie pop and post-punk on their debut LP, Running from the Blows. Combining animated lead guitar and peppy drums with unassuming vocals and subtle synths, the Los Angeles trio manage to fill their first full length record with eleven buoyant songs inspired by music from the past and present.
Without a single chorus, the album’s opener, “Casual Wrecks”, manages to instantly connect by cleverly exploiting the dichotomy between drily delivered droll lyrics and a bouncy, upbeat rhythm section. Verse after verse, the song builds upon itself, first with simple percussive touches, then playful lead guitar work, and finally keyboards. By the end of its three and a half minutes, you can’t help but notice you’ve been bopping your head along the entire time. It’s a brilliantly catchy track to start off with, and its ubiquitous charm gives the band license to take the rest of the record in any direction they choose. Fortunately, Running from the Blows is filled with plenty of great moments.
“Hours on Hands” utilizes a thoughtful chord structure to augment wistful lyrics about lost love. The garage rocking “I Don’t Think I Can Stay” finds Adult Books borrowing heavily from Mike Krol without completely abandoning their own style. “Lobby Talks” has the band unloading the record’s heaviest moment complete with plenty of distortion and a feedback-laden guitar solo. Lastly, the album’s title track repeatedly builds tension before unleashing a soaring chorus enhanced with warbled Gary Numan-esque synths.
Confusingly, the record’s back-to-back penultimate songs “Silverlake Goths” and “Suburban Girlfriend” feel a bit too on-the-nose when compared to the rest of the tracks in this collection. With their overly simplistic lyrics and compositional structures, the two songs may have been more effective as B-sides. Thankfully the album is saved by the final track, “Vision Revisions”, which has the group’s frontman doing a dead-on Frank Black-style vocal take alongside minimalist drums and an optimistic-sounding lead guitar in order to create an ultimately satisfying finale.
It’s rare that a band or artist can successfully combine two otherwise disparate genres and attract devotees of both. Adult Books, however, are uncommon in that they manage to pull off this precarious trick. Running from the Blows is an album that will appeal to fans of indie pop acts like The Drums and Alvvays in addition to admirers of post-punk revivalists such as Savages and Interpol. Adult Books have delivered a strong debut album that is deserving of your attention and praise.