There’s a song on Ropechain that encapsulates the album’s frustrating duality perfectly. It’s a snarky little number titled “The Girl Ain’t Preggers,” kicking off in the me-first macho vein of Spoon’s “Waiting for the Kid to Come Out.” Sampled drums slam, a funky bassline snaps like a thick rubber band, and David Adamson—the Indianapolis-based ringleader cracked enough to name his project after babyspeak for “Grandpa Jukebox”—sets about explaining why he’s not fit for fatherhood: “I need some money right now/Ain’t got no money/I can’t pay for no baby/I need some food right now/I wanna eat/Can’t feed no baby.” The self-deprecation parade marches on and on, gathering handclaps and bell-chimes like dander, until our slang-slinging protagonist is actually sort of bummed that he isn’t becoming a dad after all. With Ropechain, the emotional turnaround’s reversed: An initial, burning desire to hate everything about this album—the stylistic mish-mash, the artistic blackface, the blah cover art—gives way to wary admiration, even though it’s hard to shake the sense that its creator’s something of a jerk.
Adamson’s no Beck, but these days, who is? On “You Will Love My Boom,” he posits a version of the Jimi Hendrix Experience where the groundbreaking maestro doesn’t wring gallons of noxious feedback from his ax; on the majestically overblown “I Will Save Young Michael,” he gives Jacko a series of deeply sincere pep talks. “Black Girls,” meanwhile, places its titular subjects up on an electro-industrial pedestal without going all “Kill Whitey party” about it: “Black girls walk on tips of mountains/Jump in seas like they was fountains/Convince the earth to turn around again.” Adamson’s awe is inspiring to behold, and there’s an important lesson buried in Grampall Jookabox’s pop-collage growers: Never underestimate the audacity of dopes.