A Tale of Two Adams

Who knew teachers could be this cool?

By Doug Wallen
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 8, 2006

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Holy roller: Adam Arcuragi mixes the spiritual and the secular.

Adam Goren and Adam Arcuragi are both Philadelphia-based teachers who'll celebrate new self-titled albums this weekend with church shows. But that's where the similarities end.

Goren's familiar from his days as synth-punk savant Atom & His Package, whose bratty anthems pissed off purists but packed in teenagers (there's a Package poster on Seth Cohen's bedroom wall on The O.C.). Arcuragi, meanwhile, has been doing the singer/songwriter thing since his college band petered out after, um, college.

Having shelved the Package a few years back to start a family and hold down a proper job with health benefits, Goren has returned with the more traditional Armalite.

Something of a Philly supergroup-bassist Dan Yemin is on loan from Paint It Black, drummer Jeff Ziga from Affirmative Action Jackson and singer/guitarist Mike McKee (a PW contributor and Rockpile editor) from Amateur Party-Armalite tear through their debut. Goren and McKee trade off on vocals and lyrics, sharing an unmistakable desire to make peace with adulthood.

"To lock on specifics would only make me more unsure/ A paranoid example of 'the post-24,'" McKee shouts on "Entitled," while "Husker Dave" finds Goren declaring, "When you're a parent/ That means no committing suicide."

Let's not take that last line out of context-Goren is raging against members of his extended family, not his immediate one. He loves his wife and their daughter Ruby. In fact, he's ecstatic to have such a good balance between his work, loved ones and music.

"It's just fun to play music with friends," says Goren by phone from his Chestnut Hill home. "It really wasn't to substitute Atom & His Package. And because I was no longer out of town for such ridiculous amounts of time, it was possible to do."

Is it strange sharing frontman duties in Armalite after starring in a one-man band?

"No, it's really nice," he says. "What's so fun and attractive about this is there's absolutely no pressure. The other guys play in other bands more seriously, so we just have fun."

Armalite certainly sounds like a blast for Goren, even when addressing his recent struggle with Type 1 diabetes on "I Am a Pancreas."

"When I got diagnosed, it was stressful and a bit unnerving," he explains. "It's just one of those things in life that kicks you in the ass and reminds you that you're mortal. But it gave me a boost too, like, yeah this sucks but this is manageable. It reminded me how wonderful the 99.999 percent of things in my life are."

These days Goren finds himself teaching high school chemistry and physics at Penn Charter in East Falls. Do his students know about his music?

"Some of them," he says. "But they soon realize I'm a gigantic dork. The novelty wears off pretty quickly."

Adam Arcuragi doesn't have to worry about name recognition quite yet, as he teaches G.E.D. preparation to adults at the Lutheran Settlement House. Now that his CD has been featured on both WXPN and NPR, though, it could be right around the corner. The album represents a full range of emotions-from the six-minute "All the Bells" to the jaunty "1981"-delivered in a world-weary rasp that recalls Damien Jurado and Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen.

"The Screen" is the actual love song of the bunch, according to the press kit. Over lunch at Royal Tavern, Arcuragi recalls how a friend told him he never writes love songs.

Family guy: Adam Goren rocks it to an adoring audience of one.
"So that was my mission for the next few months," he says. "I had to write something pointedly about loving someone. So I hobbled together a bunch of different scenarios."

Originally titled God's Black House, then 499 Days, the album was supposed to go unnamed.

"It's self-titled by default," Arcuragi elaborates. "I'm horrible at making up titles. One day I was just angry and said, 'Look, I didn't want a title in the first place. Why don't we just go with no title?'"

The "we" he refers to are his backing players-culled from National Eye, Windsor for the Derby, Audible and elsewhere-and Daniel Piotrowski, who released the album on his startup High Two label.

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