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FRANK COTOLO REVIEWS "UNDERTOWN"


Kirk Adams has seen the enemy—and it is not he. Kirk has seen the face Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote “was a face which darkness could kill in an instant/a face as easily hurt by laughter or light.” Just as a Ferlinghetti poem tells us that our loves suggest we think differently at night, which shocks the angel in anyone who dares to love, Kirk’s new CD, Undertown, tells us in each of its 12 songs that the darkness is, indeed, more than a mere shock, it’s lethal. Fearlessly, Kirk surrenders to existentialism with solid-state surf-guitar licks that are, literally, what shadows must sound like on the disconsolate roads through Undertown. Every track is thick and resounding, presenting melodies that are restless in their own existence, much like their author. Opening with the moody “Soul Shadow Time,” Kirk immerses the listener in his shadowy sounds, warning “the signs are all backward/the roads are turning back and underneath.” In the waning lyrics of the song, Kirk sings, “the Tiger talks/ and will sing / Hallelujah/ for you.” It’s the same symbolic tiger that represents a part of us all that we would attempt to hide and reject, both impossible moving through Undertown. You need only to become indulged in the second track, “Pile Of Dirt,” to realize Kirk, who cannot spin his ride through this deadly district as worthy, is trying to get his head around a lack of purpose: “You know my life ain’t worth/ a pile of dirt/ a pile of dirt could grow daisies.” Better off dead? Whatever, since this song of doom produces one of the finer guitar solos in the dozen tracks. The piano marches the listener through Undertone and the sense of unfortunate placement, or as Shakespeare put it, “outrageous fortune” continues with images “’neath the skin and bone,” and “in a deeper zone” where love once showed much more promise. Orpheus, no stranger to the underworld, “returns/ feeling pretty burned/ overcome, dull and gray” in “Cross The River,” which may be that same river separating Heaven from hell in Richard Matheson’s “What Dreams May Come.” En route to eternity itself, Kirk sings the song with sufferance and wants to cross the river playing clean legato passages on his electric guitar after the memorable hook. One after another, the songs permeate our senses and Kirk manages to keep our attention through his distinctive tropes—streetlights blinking, a slaughtered gazelle, an army of ghosts. So mildly does Kirk perform the lyrics that he adds sweetness to repulsive visuals in the same manner his guitar licks are plucked yet undercharged. Kirk Adams is deliciously out of sync, disappointed. After all, “two thousand years passed and no return” isn’t what was prophesized. As well, the new millennium is void of the flying cars that were supposed to soar through the skies in his lifetime. And that is the exact location of Undertown, it’s the last stop in Kirk’s lifetime, a crowded, confused population hosting the generation Don McLean claimed was “lost in space.” Undertown, ends with “Officially Strange,” offering a hellish atmosphere at its start and after Kirk admits “the heat is getting to me” the song’s walk-away beat takes us to the edge of town, the space between spaces, the bittersweet end, the heart of darkness. Few, if any, songwriters could have taken listeners on a journey so bleak with melodies free of rancor and heavy metal. And none but Kirk may have the audacity to show us, through crafted, intelligent pop music and mercurial lyrics, why we think differently at night. -Frank Cotolo Get the CD or Digital Download: Bandcamp Contact: kirkemail@yahoo.com