by J. Mo
It’s not easy reviewing the soundtrack to a movie you haven’t seen, especially when that movie is Adam Green’s part-Kickstarter-funded, psychedelic, satirical, hyper-sensory retelling of the Aladdin story. Nevertheless, I shall have a go.
Like many people, I became aware of Adam Green and his earlier incarnation The Moldy Peaches when they featured in the 2007 tweegasm indie movie Juno, three years after the band had already gone ‘on a break’. Since then Adam Green has been first and foremost a solo artist. And ‘artist’ really is the best word for Green. Alongside his nine solo albums (one of which was the score to a theatrical version of a novel about a homeless man’s dog); he has collaborated with Binki Shapiro and Har Mar Superstar amongst others; had a number of art exhibitions both solo and as part of art collective 3MB (with Toby Goodshank and best pal Macaulay Culkin); and released a film called The Wrong Ferrari, shot entirely on his smartphone and inspired by life on the road and a lot of ketamine. And now he brings us Adam Green’s Aladdin – the movie, the album and the art shows.
From the movie trailers and music videos posted online, the world Green has created to tell his version of the Aladdin myth is a truly alternate reality constructed out of papier mâché (Green designed and made all of the sets himself), where Aladdin’s lamp is a 3D printer and Macaulay Culkin is the leader of a rebel army. Sex and drugs feature heavily in the film and this is reflected in Green’s album – from the opening lines of the first track ‘Fix My Blues’ (‘your breasts are like two wrists that I’ve handcuffed to my dick’), to penultimate track ‘Life In A Videogame’ (‘my spirit wouldn’t be broke, if I could just get the right mixture of wifi and coke’).
Of the 19 tracks on the album, half a dozen are snippets of dialogue from the movie, which help to give the songs a context and shape the album as a whole. We hear Green’s Aladdin confess ‘I only take cocaine to go to Brooklyn…besides it helps me phone in the blues’. And the existence of God is finally summarised in a handy equation: ‘God equals Humans divided by Nature plus Aliens’.
Some of the tracks on this album are Green in the antifolk style we know and love, such as ‘Me From Far Away’, ‘Trading Our Graves’, and ‘Never Lift A Finger’. But the fact that this is also a movie soundtrack gives the tracklist a variety you wouldn’t normally expect from a Green album: the nursery rhyme sounds of ‘Nature of The Clown’; the Austin Powers riffs of instrumental ‘Chinese Dance Theme’; and the Polyphonic Spree-esque finale ‘Interested in Music’ (with the tongue-in-cheek lyrics ‘are you interested in music… do you live in San Diego, you like to laugh at jokes, do you dabble in pop culture and your parents have a child’). This can give you a small sense of missing out for not having seen the movie (limited screenings around the world open today, by the way). But, according to Green in his documentary about the making of the film, this project is a unification of his visual art, his music and his film work. And the album is as valid and enjoyable an entry point into Green’s unique storytelling as the film and the visual art are.
In this album Green’s characteristic world-weary singing voice takes on sex, drugs, the concept of time, the world of video games, and the darkest corners of the human condition. And he does so with a lyricism, honesty and imagination that infuse his songs with an inimitable dry humour and playful, childlike quality. Whether you’ve seen the film or not, this album invites you to lose yourself on your very own magic carpet ride…or half hour train journey, whichever is more feasible in your world.
Adam Green’s Aladdin, a new film and music project, is out on April 15th 2016.