By now you’ll know that Insecure Men is the joint project of Saul Adamczewski of Fat White Family and The Moonlandingz and Ben Romans-Hopcraft of Childhood. What you won’t know is that their eponymous debut album is like stepping into a middle-class satire, a surreal nightmare and a hallucinogenic celebrity lifestyle phantasm all at the same time. Recorded with an ancient Tascam at Sean Lennon’s studio in upstate New York inbetween working on The Moonlandingz’s album, it’s a record that feels both personal and utterly bombastic.
Drawing inspiration from a myriad of influences from songwriting supremos The Carpenters and Harry Nilsson, mixed with the hypnagogic worlds of David Lynch, along with the exotic and electronic pop of Arthur Lyman and Perrey and Kingsley, it feels like a very well established world with a certain goal in mind. Adamczewski described the record as, “Pretty music with a dark underbelly to it”, as well as calling it a, “Much more honest account of who I am and where I come from”. There’s a distinct personability to Insecure Men that feels fresh and exciting, as well as an outlet for Adamczewski, who has hailed the project for helping with his sobriety and mental health.
The record opens with debut single ‘Subaru Nights’, which is a jubilant glimpse at suburban life mixed with a nod to a Hawaiian exotica, a theme which runs throughout the album. The track boasts the duo’s talent for writing a glowing pop song with a beguiling edge but, of course, after two Childhood albums and two Fat White Family records, we already know that. It’s swiftly followed by second single ‘Teenage Toy’, which sends the record further down the surrealist rabbit hole. Distorted, unsteady and sumptuously bewitching, its dishevelled electro-pop seems to capture a thwarting nightmare that sounds like both Childhood and Fat White Family have had a bizarre love child.
Of course, like any band with Saul Adamczewski in it, things continue to get lyrically more perverse and provocative. Throughout, Insecure Men tackles tough subjects, but ‘Mekong Glitter’s exploration of the double standards surrounding Gary Glitter are as tough as they come. Adamczewski explains, “I don’t think he should be let off the hook, I just want to ask why?” in regards to the contradictory set of rules applied to a lot of musicians who rose to fame and fortune during the 1970s. Coming with a melodic, almost euphoric repetition of: “Why? Don’t You Ever Ask Why?” it’s Insecure Men at their most reflective and complex, which is when the record is at its best.
Insecure Men is littered with challenging, disturbing and borderline offensive themes. ‘Cliff Has Left the Building’, without a doubt the best song on the record, is about Operation Yew Tree, which the band describe as the, “Greatest urban myth”. As dark as you would expect but, not only that, it carries the most beautiful sax throughout the song that is reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith’s Chinatown ‘Love Theme’. The most important thing here, though, is that the songs are genuinely fantastic, perverse pop songs. Take ‘I Don’t Wanna Dance (With My Baby)’, for example, with its lo-fi take on pop bonanza. Its crackpot, misfit style makes it all the more endearing and, like Kasabian if they were actually weird instead of pretending to be, it’s certainly an eccentric pop banger.
Like most side projects, it feels like a completely different direction for the duo where they can experiment with instruments and lyrics, which, in turn, showcases their talents as incredibly impressive musicians. Moving onto a lighter subject (for the album, at least) of celebrity deaths, Insecure Men employ the use of pre-teen pop singers the Honey Hahs, for an astonishingly sad look at the similar ways in which Whitney and Bobbi Houston died. ‘Whitney Houston and I’ is described by Adamczewski as, “A provocative song but I genuinely found the story unbearably sad” and, indeed, there’s a theme of melancholy mournfulness through Insecure Men, as, much like most of his musical career, Adamczewski comes across as an incredibly profound thinker.
The band, but Adamczewski in particular, look at the world different to most, and his oddball take on life provides Insecure Men’s debut album with multiple running themes. Part everyday life satire, part take on the issues with celebrity, but always in a barmy, crazy and oddball way, Insecure Men is like taking a trip into a universe co-created by David Lynch, Mike Leigh and Paul Verhoeven. Crucially, though, they’ve got the pop gravitas to pull this all off throughout the whole of the album’s length.