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Total request jive
Adam Green forsakes Moldy Peaches for Jessica Simpson

It was seeing Jessica Simpson in a teen-mag spread that inspired Adam Green, one of the two principal songwriters in the NYC-based indie-rock/anti-folk band the Moldy Peaches, to put pen to paper and come up with the single thatís begun appearing on MTV. "Jessica" is a pleasantly melodic, slightly melancholy, mid-tempo acoustic confection that could be mistaken for a straightforward declaration of love were it not for its biting chorus: "Jessica, Jessica Simpson/Youíve got it all wrong/Your fraudulent smile, the way that you faked it the day that you died." And though Jessica isnít exactly the apple of Adamís eye, the song comes off less as a dig at the star of MTVís Newlyweds than as an amusing if slightly absurdist exercise in free-association, as Green lets his mind wander through a flowery sonic landscape buoyed by Jane Scarpantonioís enchanting string arrangements. The strings (including violin by former Dambuilder Joan Wasser) and the free-association are typical of the material on last yearís Friends of Mine (Rough Trade), Greenís second solo album without Moldy Peaches collaborator Kimya Dawson. Only this time he seems to have stumbled upon a topic thatís striking a chord ó if not a nerve ó in circles far outside the indie-rock world.

"Itís funny, because in Germany they donít even know who Jessica Simpson is, and the songís done better there than in the US," says Green (whoíll play T.T. the Bearís Place next Saturday) when my phone call wakes him at home in NYC. "Originally they thought it was just a love song. They didnít understand the word Ďfraudulentí ó itís one of those five-dollar words. And thatís one of the key words in the song. So they interpreted it as a straight love song."

No danger of that happening in the English-speaking parts of the world. Yet initially he wasnít even sure he would ever play "Jessica" for anyone. "I just didnít consider it being a song that Iíd actually play for people. I wrote it about a year and a half ago and made a home recording of it. When I played it for a friend, he convinced me that it was a really good song."

At that point, Green had already booked a solo tour to support his first solo album, Garfield (Rough Trade), a rougher, lower-fidelity prelude to Friends of Mine that was recorded before the Moldy Peaches released their first CD and that only hints at how clever and crafty a songwriter heís become. He played "Jessica" on that tour, and the response was immediate and undeniable. "People would always come up and mention it at the end of the set, so I knew it was resonating. So by the time Friends of Mine was done, there wasnít even a question that it was going to be the first single."

The success of "Jessica" seems to have ensured that the Moldy Peaches will remain on the back burner, especially since Dawson is busy recording and releasing her own solo albums. "We joke about getting back together in five years or something, but weíll see what happens," Green quips. In the meantime, heís mounting a solo tour that finds him fronting a four-man backing band. And though this tour will almost certainly draw a broader audience than heís used to, he isnít worried about being pegged as "the Jessica Simpson guy" or as a novelty songwriter. "I never would have gone along with putting ĎJessicaí out if I didnít think it was a good representation of my songwriting. I mean, I used the same process to write that song as I do to write any of my songs. It came about just as naturally as anything Iíve ever written. It wasnít like I wanted to write a song about Jessica Simpson. I just found myself in the middle of writing it."

Adam Green plays T.T. the Bearís Place, 10 Brookline Street in Central Square, next Saturday, January 31; call (617) 492-BEAR.

Issue Date: January 23 - 29, 2004
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