Mike Hadreas’ first album as Perfume Genius was ten short songs of pain, whispered out in his trademark delicate voice and recorded in his mum’s house without any particular intention to be released, it’s intimate in a way that can be almost difficult to hear at times. Hadreas himself is a shy, almost damaged seeming character, singing of awful things with a smile and a shaking voice, over a gentle piano. ‘Put Your Back N 2 It’ does not show much deviation from this effective formula, even using a couple of re-recorded demos from before ‘Learning’, the beautiful piano arpeggios and hushed vocals remain.
Hadreas’ words seem to be precisely shaped from an almost exquisite
hurt, but they’re never complicated, no overwrought metaphors or vivid
descriptions, instead, his words almost tumble out, and seem obvious
once they’re said – the sign of a true lyrical talent. The second track,
‘Normal Song’ opens with an uncomplicated line that somehow manages to communicate a whole lot more; “hold my hand, I am afraid”
he asks plaintively. It’s not all doom and gloom though; often what
makes these songs seem so upsetting is the glimmer of hope they
describe. For example, on ‘Dark Parts’ (written as a present for his mum) he promises “I will take the dark part of your heart into my heart”. This album also shows a little more instrumental variety than ‘Learning’; a dark bass riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Twin Peaks soundtrack opens ‘Floating Spit’, and the gentle pounding drums on ‘Dark Parts’ add a sense of urgency, when things could otherwise have felt a little too heavy. It closes with ‘Sister Song’,
the Perfume Genius version of an arena-filling anthem – a
reverberating guitar picks out a melody that sounds patriotic in some
strange way, with typically revealing yet mysterious lyrics, and a
sense of anticipation.
Bands like Snow Patrol and singers like Adele are often lauded for
the ability their songs have to induce emotion (…and how well their
songs go with sad montages on the TV). But true heartbreak, true grief –
almost at the point where it seems cathartic, wretched and destructive
– is to be found in this album.....
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