The Hamburglar occupies a curious place in the pantheon of McDonaldland – a twisted and idiosyncratic niche that is much the same as that held by the Detroit technopop duo Adult.
The characters around the Hamburglar were either lovable inhuman creatures or humanoid things recognizable as a human in makeup. But the Hamburglar himself existed in the insane purgatory of neither man nor monster. Deformed possibly by the high levels of bovine growth hormone present in the land of his birth, or through sheer force of the same crippling obsession with McDonald’s hamburgers that destroyed his mind, Hamburgler follows his own, lonely path.
Adult. has been single-mindedly pursuing its own hamburger, as it were, for nearly ten years.
Their formation in 1998 handily predicted the “electroclash” movement that for a few months threatened to claim them. However, this project of the matrimonially bonded Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus has never been electroclash. They have always been punk. Much as the Hamburglar is unfazed by passage of time, rotation of characters around him or dietary common sense, Adult. has done little to alter its path toward crafting the most unsettling noise possible.
The new album’s opening track, “Red Herring,” is perversity in the truest sense. To the listener familiar with Adult.’s proclivity for uneasy listening, the percussion, which sounds like an army of rusty scissors on the march, combined with electronics that sound like R2-D2 with acid reflux, make for a veritable embarrassment of riches. But these riches are of sickening sound. That they inspire aural lust toward what, to any rational listener, would be something to avoid, is a psychological trick worthy of the Hamburglar himself.
From there, “Why Bother?” goes into one of two modes: punk attack and sonic mood painting. While it may seem vile padding, the near-instrumental pieces like “The Importance of Being Folk” parts I and II are a necessary counterpoint to the hyper-compressed post-punk rave-ups that comprise the rest of the album, foremost among which is the single “I Feel Worse When I’m With You.” With a tempo that makes the listener want to pogo at a frequency that would be physically impossible for all but the most Adderall-riddled preschoolers, and a bass line that sounds like Peter Hook if he were an Adderall-riddled preschooler, the track vibrates through the pop culture lithosphere like vibranium. The lyrics on “Why Bother?” read like contrary, negative versions of songs you’ve already heard, played in a Spartan, junkyard-techno style that is most appropriate for the content.
The Hamburglar was never without contemporaries – The Lucky Charms leprechaun, the Trix rabbit – other marketing mascots who derived their only joy from stealing children’s food. But in his inability to articulate what was going on in his grotesquely bloated plastic skull, muttering only his lunatic mantra “Robble, robble” to himself, the Hamburglar is strikingly alone. Adult., too, seems unable to communicate anything other than its desire to induce a combination of vomiting and paranoia with their music. But like the Hamburglar, Adult. doesn’t seem to care. And when all is said and done, isn’t that what matters?