[BEEP BEEP BANG] From the opening moments of "Val Kilmore," the first song on Adventures! With Might's self-titled debut full-length, I expect to hear Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan coming in with a well-timed "reach out and touch faith!" But the band takes things in a different direction, one with roots decidedly more '90s than '80s—"Val Kilmore" winds up sounding like a pulp tune; "Unfinished Pop" is a combination of crunchy guitars and synths that can't help remind of Garbage. Even when the band is incorporating 8-bit blips and bleeps into its sound (see the trance/dance/sex anthem "Eat Your Children" and the downright Zelda-ish "N.E.S"), the combination of A!WM's aughties disco-pop aesthetics and its '80s Casio technology seem to split the difference and land the band's sound squarely in the decade that brought us Weezer and Nine Inch Nails.
That should probably be a bad thing, as many of us would rather forget the '90s altogether and feel that any kind of sentimentality for that decade should fall into the "too soon" trash bin. And yet the disc works: in part because it is recorded beautifully—the low-end synth sounds are impressively bowel-shaking, and the ghostly effects on Marc Swart's smooth vocals are effective at giving A!WM's songs a shoegaze sheen—and in part because the duo is partially tongue-in-cheek, or at least knowingly theatrical, throughout. I mean, who makes a song called "Real Portland" sound like a nightclub from the movie Blade? Who even titles a song "Have You Seen The Dark Knight?"? Everything down to the band's origin—Inger Medina and Swart purportedly met in a life-drawing class as teacher and student, then used their sexual tension to build a band—seems a touch suspect.
But there's value in suspending your disbelief for a moment and letting Adventures! With Might's half-cheesy/half-stunning sound wash over you, just like there's value in cracking open your old CDs to see what was moving you 10 or 15 years ago. It takes the heartfelt, cinematic closer "You Think Too Much"—a warning to would-be critics, perhaps?—for A!WM to prove its point: Good music transcends time and technology. Not every song on this debut fits that description, but most of it sounds pretty cool right now.
SEE IT: Adventures! With Might plays Friday, April 15, at Backspace with Spesus Christ and Pocketknife. 9 pm. $5. All ages.