Detroit's Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus (a.k.a. Adult.) are both technically and aesthetically better electro producers than the sub-par imitators who have temporarily crawled out of their expensive East Coast art schools with designs on dominating the electronic music world. With five years of singles such as "Nausea" and (tellingly) "Misinterpreted," absorbing live shows, and growing respect for its record label Ersatz Audio, Adult. has enjoyed more longevity than newer acts such as W.I.T. and Mount Sims (both of whom are lauded for fashion looks over actual studio prowess). There is also the duo's debut album Resuscitation, which still moves steadily at independent shops around the country long after its 2001 release date (always an amazing feat for electronic artist albums).

Adult. is adept at creating striking visual imagery that can evoke contrasting emotions. Kuperus's photographs, one of which is used for the cover of their new album Anxiety Always, often portray elegantly dressed females in what could be interpreted as threatening situations -- being run over by a car, kicking at a male predator. While some women get the intended joke, she's taken heat from feminist magazines like Bitch for her shocking setups, which they find to be violently exploitative rather than darkly humorous.

Kuperus is an equally provocative singer; on Anxiety Always her voice sounds atonal, if usually in key with Miller's motor-driven guitar and synth melodies. When the two are in tandem, as on the closing track "Kick in the Shin," the results can come out quite well. When the combination doesn't work, though, the music can sound excruciating. "Glue Your Eyelids Together," which finds Kuperus repeating the title over and over (as she does on much of Anxiety Always's tracks), is the worst example of how shallow some of these songs are. In fact, Kuperus's photo on the inner CD jacket that illustrates Miller actually applying glue to her eyes is far more evocative.

There are a few hints on the album that indicate Adult. gets its own jokes, some of which are actually funny. The skittish bleeps and beats of "Blank Eyed, Nose Bleed" keep one slightly off-balance as Kuperus slyly skewers the egocentricity of cokeheads, asking, "Wouldn't it be nice to go to a party and be the only one there?" This moment finds Adult. at its best, but it isn't enough to recommend Anxiety Always to anyone who doesn't have much patience for its art pranks. -- Tamara Palmer

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