STRANGELIGHT- ‘Adult Themes’

Strangelight aren’t technically a new band. Oh sure, ‘Adult Themes’ is the Californian quartet’s debut album, but some of these songs were written over 15 years ago. Back then, Transistor Transistor frontman Nat Coghlan, and Julia Lancer, drummer of The New Trust, met on tour, made a connection and cut some demos. Now, along with erstwhile members of Swingin Utters and Kowloon Walled City, the duo have fully fleshed out their early efforts.

The result is not a million miles away from Coghlan’s previous noisy work, but is much closer to the no-frills, high-energy punk rock of Rocket From The Crypt, Hot Snakes, or Pissed Jeans. ‘Digressions from Sierra Leone’ is 90 seconds of belligerent swagger, ‘Gold Rolex’ would make for a fun garage rock banger if it didn’t sound so much like it wanted to beat you to death in that same garage, and ‘Adjustable Rate’ might be the best song about mortgages ever recorded. Oh yeah, that album title is no joke. These aren’t songs of teen angst or political fury, but the monotony and malaise of growing the fuck up.

That doesn’t mean ‘Adult Themes’ boasts low stamina or a flabby middle. The band barrel through 10 songs in 25 minutes with vicious intent here, their sense of urgency perhaps encouraged by hitting record just days before their home state went into pandemic-enforced lockdown. If anything, though, it’s too urgent. Initially it’s only moments- like the brilliant melodic break in the middle of ‘Object Permanence’- that stick in the memory, not whole songs. And for a band named after a Fugazi song, there’s a distinct lack of precision or dynamism. 

There’s a shortage of staying power perhaps, but plenty of immediate thrills here, and a knack for weaponised feedback. It’s almost like Strangelight aren’t supposed to be trapped in the studio, even on the tightest of deadlines. They’re supposed to be heard live. In the flesh. In your face. That’s where ‘Adult Themes’ would sound electric.

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