Adulkt Life is a band formed by Huggy Bear’s Chris Rowley, who was once a prominent figure in the English riot grrrl scene in the 90’s. Now at 55 years old, armed with the wisdom of fatherhood and a day job at a non-profit, he has assembled a few of his friends to release their first album entitled Book of Curses. This record straddles the line between noise and art punk, a balance achieved by Rowley’s defiant delivery — filled with conviction and frustration on the ailments of society — and backed by a soundscape that swirls with synths, shoegaze effects and heavy pulsing rhythms. At its core we find Rowley with the same punk spirit but with a newfound perspective.
Book of Curses is fueled by anxiety and discontent. “Country Pride” derides the twisted nationalist ideologies that sometimes plague small towns. Rife with saxophone improvisations and erratic rhythm changes, this opener informs the chaos and uneasiness that weaves through this record. “Jnr Showtime” opens with a pounding riff and boiling bass line, while Crowley spits off his own disappointments: “Listen to a father you’re a father to a son Why would you let this shit carry on?”
“Taking Hits” brims with fiery riffs and scalding percussive beats as it serves as an anthem for the downtrodden, representing their suffering at being left behind. “Stevie K” is the loudest and most hardcore track on this record. The screeching guitars perfectly meshes with Crowley’s spitfire lyrics as he slams down a mighty figure from their self-erected pedestal.
“Clean (But Itchy)” has razor-sharp guitars that intertwine and dig deep but at the same time has a well-refined sound that feels surprisingly pleasant. Even with the punk nature of these songs, the band maintains a clear and defined aesthetic all throughout its production choices, where the vocals are still coherent even with the harsh textures of the guitars. A choice that fits well with the material, as it makes the messaging stand out even more to its listeners.
Book of Curses is a fine achievement in vision and execution, especially considering it’s a debut from an artist decades away from their previous release. This is no doubt a testament to Rowley’s strong creative drive. As he puts it: “As you get older, there’s always going to be an obstacle. There’s always going to be an enemy.” Indeed, our struggles are still far from being over, but with the catharsis and solidarity of punk, hopefully we can take steps in the right direction.