Adult Cinema is a remarkable one-man project helmed by multi-instrumentalist Mike Weston. Hot and Cold is his third release and displays a mercurial talent, seemingly at ease with an array of instruments, skilfully moulding together an entertaining melange of styles. Adult Cinema made their debut with This is Your Life in 2007, which strangely sank almost without trace initially. However, Mike Weston persisted and with an album of this quality it would appear that he is now here to stay.
Some artists may have given up after the initial disappointment, but fate played a strange hand for Adult Cinema as the song Time Machine from the debut album was picked up by TV, film and advertising companies around the world, most notably the National Geographic Channel, and curious viewers wanted to know the origins of that distinctive song. This eventually led Adult Cinema to release the free Teaser Trailer downloads (now available as a retail CD) in 2016, followed with very proactive social media campaigns (which is where this reviewer first encountered him). In 2018 the debut album This is Your Life was re-released in a remastered format with the outstanding Time Machine alongside other cracking tracks Supercool, Alien Craft and the fantastic Flowers. (This is Your Life is definitely worth checking out.) This was an album shot through with great swathes of progressive and classic rock with mid-period Pink Floyd especially to the fore, but the influences reached wider and the quality of the song writing and performance marked this as well beyond a pastiche of Gilmour, Waters and co. So where have Adult Cinema taken us on this album – is it indeed ‘Hot’ or ‘Cold’?
The title track itself is no more than a very short ‘ad’ like soundbite intro, seemingly touching on the constant and often contradictory barrage on our lives from social media. With a brief synth note, Weston launches into the far meatier Black God with acoustic guitars and clear, assertive vocals, reminiscent of folk/punk troubadour Frank Turner. Seemingly challenging the hypocrisy and distortion of many with so called ‘faith’, Adult Cinema pull no punches lyrically:
Would you take a shot at me, would your God be there for you?
If I told you were wrong, If I told you I was right?
If I told you it was fake, would you blanket bomb all night, all night?”
This biting song gathers momentum with some fine drumming and quirky, subtle keyboard effects embroidering the piece. The intensity builds with electric guitar riffs overlaying the acoustic guitar foundations and then a startling shimmering guitar feedback effect, akin to The Smiths’ How Soon is Now? brings this excellent opening number to a juddering halt – it’s quite an opening number and certainly catches the attention. In one song Adult Cinema characterise their approach – finely honed rock songs which skilfully weave together a whole range of musical influences.
‘Side A’ continues with Have You Ever Flown Across the Sky?… presumably in a ‘Silver Machine’?!! This is pure early ’70s Hawkwind with strident, almost punk like vocals over a wall of guitars and thunderous drums (apparently drums were the precocious young Mike Weston’s first instrument, on which he excelled, and it shows.) The eclectic musical journey moves on with an almost Chas ’n’ Dave intro before sliding into the Small Faces or Blur-like She Won’t Ever Let You Down which rolls along on with a funky piano, a catchy melody and a distorted guitar line. This is just fun stuff and carried off with great aplomb and brio by the clearly multi-talented Mike Weston.
Comparisons with Pink Floyd have characterised previous perceptions of Adult Cinema, but it’s not until Continuum 5 that this influence clearly manifests itself with a pastoral acoustic guitar and softly spoken Gilmour-like vocal intro which then opens up with a rather sedate Mellotron drenched piece, but it’s one of the less interesting. Spanish Garden is altogether more captivating with great bass and organ interplay over some crisp drumming and we dive into a psychedelic whirl. This is a song throbbing with energy and richness, including a short horn interlude in the middle and then a short but cool wah wah guitar solo… and that’s just ‘Side A’!
The highlight of the whole album kicks off ‘Side B’ as a cosmic synth opening floats us towards The Sun which then grooves along infectiously on a glorious fat bassline, dextrous drumming… and yes, even some cowbell! The song bowls along joyously with colourful splashes of organ and an insistent earworm guitar melody with echoes of Blue Öyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper or the drive of the Spencer Davis Group – this is a blissed out, grooving piece of rock joy straight out of the late ’60s or early ’70s which has no right to exist in 2020, and yet still sounds as cool as… as… a very cool thing!
Where do you go after that? Who knows with Adult Cinema, but I certainly was not expecting a picked bluegrass guitar intro reminiscent of Mountain and then opening up into a full blown gritty piece of Lynyrd Skynyrd Southern Rock for The Wind, another style which the chameleon-like Mike Weston also manages to pull off with great skill. The elemental suite continues with The Rain which segues into the much more expansive and hard driving Egg with some dirty sounding yet slick guitar and furious drumming. This section concludes with the dreamy and Floydian melancholy of It’s the Future for Us, which culminates with a titanic organ solo set in an apocalyptic background of exploding drums and effects. This fascinatingly diverse and entertaining album ends with the horn inflected sleaze come-down of Here it Comes, which rises in intensity with a wave of organ sounds before receding elegiacally. It’s an intentionally low-key (and possibly too downbeat?) end to an atmospheric album with so many echoes of an era of music which evoked a mixture of freedom and decadence.
There is one elephant in this room though – just why did Mike Weston choose to call his project ‘Adult Cinema’? It’s a truly weird name, somewhat fraught with misconceptions. (True story – I ordered the CD and even warned my wife I would be doing a review on a band called ‘Adult Cinema’ just so she knew I wasn’t taking an uncharacteristic change in direction on my internet browsing… and yet still a few days later she approached me to wonder if our bank account had been hacked as she had noticed a purchase from ‘Adult Cinema’ – so I had to remind her of the band name and assure her I wasn’t accessing porn on our PC!) Mike Weston acknowledges that the name will conjure up images of seedy porn theatres, but insists that is not the band name inspiration. It’s a peculiar name but, hey, we’re all ‘Grown-ups’ here so let’s go with it… just be very careful when you Google them!!? In any case Mike Weston has gone on to explain he had “been in thrall to
Reading that explanation does place the music much more in context and undoubtedly he is successful in evocatively fusing together the styles and ‘feel’ of those two decades. Some may find the magpie-like collection of musical trinkets thrown together a little bewildering and could be regarded as derivative at times. However, I strongly suspect most who hear this will simply delight in picking up on the myriad entertaining influences which Mike Weston has skilfully woven together into high quality songs. Apart from all that, it’s just bloody well written and superbly played rock music… and most importantly, it’s just great fun! Adult Cinema’s Hot and Cold is definitely ‘Hot’.
01. Hot and Cold
02. Black God
03. Have You Ever Flown Across The Sky?
04. She Won’t Ever Let You Down
05. Continuum 5
06. The Sun
07. The Wind
08. The Rain
10. It’s The Future For Us
11. Here It Comes
Mike Weston – All Instruments & Vocals
Record Label: Illicit Recordings
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 5th October 2020
– This is Your Life (2007 – remastered re-release in 2018)
– Teaser Trailer (2016)
– Hot And Cold (2020)