Wayne Kramer

Adult World

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AllMusic Review by

Yes, Wayne Kramer lives in one, but there's a whole lot of memorabilia cluttering his adult world these days. After three strong studio albums that reestablished him as a blue collar-cum-radical-boho-street-sage with MC5 credibility intact in the late '90s, Adult World is a pretty scattered effort with lyrics that mostly look to the way-back-when rather than to what's going on today. "Brought a Knife to the Gunfight" is a one-man-band deal with a drum machine, nice harmony vocals, and backwards guitar, while "Great Big Amp" may be intended as a sardonic send-up of the joys of making big musical noise -- but that doesn't really come through loud and clear. The drums are live but sound programmed, and the "noir moderne" title track continues in that vein, with synth sonics swirling through the song and near-spoken vocals. "Talkin' Outta School," with the Hellacopters, is the first track that sounds like a cohesive song with hooks, rather than a collection of parts, and "What About Laura?" is a straight pop song with teenage runaway street saga lyrics. Typical of Adult World, the spoken word, noir rock-jazz-cum-TV themed soundtrack of "Nelson Algren Stopped By," laid down by XMarsX with Mars Williams, and featuring Fred Lonberg-Holm's prominent cello, sounds sandwiched in the middle of nowhere. The song imagines the songwriter returning to Chicago, and everything else here deals with similar themes and memories. "Love, Fidel" is an imagined love letter from Castro in a 1950s Cuban prison and "Sundays in Saigon" is a modern-day return to the site of the generation-defining Vietnam War. The compact "The Slime That Ate Cleveland" salutes '70s rock/pop culture heroes from Chrissie Hynde to Pere Ubu. "Red Arrow" rocks hard and sounds like a tribute to bebop trumpeter Red Rodney. Adult World just doesn't hang together coherently on a musical level -- maybe Kramer was looking to flex his literary muscles, or get a few musical odds and ends rattling around his brain down on DAT. But you're better off starting with his earlier solo outings on Epitaph.

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