Trying to summarize Adam Green’s work is no easy feat. Previously a Moldy Peach and on his ninth solo release – not to mention numerous exhibitions, two films and a cult following in Germany under his belt – it could be said that Green is a long-time veteran of the New York music scene. His 2002 release Garfield was, for many, ahead of it’s time and a staple in every indie kid’s library since then. Upon announcing his plan to give life to a retelling of Disney’s Aladdin – after 2010 release of The Wrong Ferrari, a film shot entirely via iPhone and written entirely on ketamine – you couldn’t begin to imagine the anticipation.
Aladdin didn’t come together overnight – it took three years of labor over every set, costume and line you see in front of you. Every black line was hand-painted by Green himself; the script came together through streams of consciousness and assigned to the actor the day of; the star-studded cast (Macaulay Culkin, Bip Ling, Alia Shawkat, and more) merged simply because of a mutual friendship with Green. As he explains in an interview with the Guardian, “I think everybody grows up with a fantasy of making a movie. In my case, I just did it. Not knowing any of the rules kind of helped. I approached Aladdin like a community project, inviting people to help me create this papier-mache world inside of a warehouse with a bunch of actors and musicians. The film was just a container for a fun experience, a crazy way to spend the summer in New York City.”
The original soundtrack (OST) is composed of nineteen tracks that flow together just as easily as anything Green ever puts down with pen on paper. No one does melancholy better. The strange combination of instruments just make sense – on “Birthday Mambo”, brazilian Rodrigo Amarante provides us with his own bossa nova version of a birthday ballad. On the rest of the record, Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa takes her long-praised podium at the drums and Josiah Steinbrick features playing a variety of bass, guitar, keyboard and piano.
Green’s lyrics have a tendency to feel like a piece of the conversation the night before that you can’t quite seem to remember. They are raw and filled to the brim with a type of honesty that stays with you and hits you at unexpected moments. The record is divided by excerpts from the film – lines such as “I honestly feel that I’m deaf to my own soul” and “I only take cocaine to go to Brooklyn” sneak in through the slow-paced guitars and somber crooning (with occasional saxophone, in typical Green fashion), somehow merging together a world of its own.
Aladdin hits home because it envisions a technology-driven future that may already be here. In retelling a classic Disney tale and replacing bits and pieces with their modern day counterparts, Green points out our faults in a way that makes us realize what’s been in front of us all along. Despite it’s self-deprecating nature, I can’t help but admit that the opening lines to “Never Lift a Finger” – “things are not so horrible / now you’re not my oracle” – changed me in a way I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to explain. An under-appreciated gem and genius in his own right, Green is never afraid to say the things you hesitate to – and for this very reason, Aladdin achieves its vision of becoming a modern classic daydream. Catch Adam Green on his upcoming North American tour.