It's surprising how surprising All the Young Droogs, the Adicts' ninth album, sounds. It's even more surprising the type of surprising that the album gets.
By now, the Adicts are basically known for four things: 1) Dressing like the dudes from Clockwork Orange; 2) Singing about Clockwork Orange; 3) Onstage magic; and 4) Playing revved up power pop-punk.
Well, as its Mott the Hoople winking title would suggest, All The Young Droogs shows the band abandoning that fourth element and substituting in lieu mid-tempo glam rock numbers. In doing so, the band achieves a soul that hasn't existed in their earliest recordings. "Stop the World" sounds like a heartfelt letter to a new love as written by a sixteen-year-old despite the fact that these guys are closer to 60. "Horrorshow" seems to comment on the modern fixation on violence, but instead of being a charging bark, its a paranoid, almost new wave number.
The album-titled centerpiece shows the full berth of this new experiment. An almost laggard stomp, "All the Young Droogs" finds lead singer Monkey commenting on the future of the youth while, much like Ian Hunter, riding a building groove that pulls from equal parts soul and Elvis. And it works damn well. At over five minutes, the song keeps building and getting slightly weirder so that while it feels like a long song, it also feels like it needs to be a long song, to truly submerge the listener in the swinging riff. What is even more impressive, is that while the Adicts haven't necessarily been known for innovating punk, "All the Young Droogs" is built around numerous experimental sounds that are so well done, they don't sound experimental at all. Behind the riff is a reggaefied, reverbed drum that sounds like it's coming from four miles away. Bongos pop along just behind the voices until a muted circus organ winds its way in. It's a daring choice that works so much so, one would think that the song needs to be released as its own unit.
But, while the band is successful on these new glam rock numbers, nearly the whole album has this same stadium clap style pace. The strange part is, the album opens up with the charging "Battlefield W1," which sounds like "Classic Adicts." The song is fast and built around a chorus that is so concrete it almost feels like a Jackie Wilson number via three chords. Frankly, its so fully formed and snappy that it might be their best song they've ever written.
Yet, the album never returns to this high energy barnstorming. The glam rock mid-pacers are great, but following the berserk "Battlefield W1" one is perpetually on his seat waiting for a return to the charge which never comes.
Still, while the band never returns to their double fisted punk attack, they end on a high note with "Love Lies Bleeding." Again, the band seems to reference glam rock, but also slips in some heavier, grimy sounds that are both shoegaze, goth and even mid-period Beatles.
It's surprising that at this late stage the Adicts are capable of surprise. I wonder what else they have up their sleeve? (Get it?! Because they do magic!!!!)