Perfume Genius – Too Bright
By Cee Cee Hill
Perfume Genius’s Too Bright is a bold record that is worth a listen.
The cover of the album, which comes out September 23 on Matador Records, features a picture of Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius) that’s reminiscent of a Dior perfume commercial. The delicate image, a golden and alabaster sculpture, contrasts with the look in Hadreas’ face, which warns about any perceived weakness. In a way, the album’s cover art serves as indication of what’s contained inside: the songs on Too Bright might be delicate, but Hadreas stands his ground. He’s ready to fight back against any hate and bigotry that comes his way.
As proof, Too Bright starts with the short, delicate, hushed and beautiful “I Decline” before hitting you in the face with an ominous guitar line in the single “Queen.” This is how the album is going to be, moving from exquisite ballads to high tension, wrought with visceral cries for acceptance.
Hadreas has a lot in common with Chan Marshall (Cat Power). His voice can tear apart your soul but in his sensibility there is strength. He is as comfortable singing over just a piano as he as uttering piercing screams, tribal drums and electronic stabs to highlight the darkness of his songs. For the experimental side of the album, Hadreas got help from producer Adrian Utley (Portishead) who brought synths and other resources to give the record additional depth.
In this era of downloading singles, when it seems like the idea of an album doesn’t make sense anymore, Too Bright is an entity by itself; all the songs fit together as a whole. For example, in “Grip,” Hadreas revisits the lyrics from the first song “I Decline” and extends them. Here, he sounds like a modern Buddy Holly (‘maybe babe’) mixing rock and electronic noise and proving the universality of music, from the 50’s until now.
But don’t get fooled. Although the music is fragile and delicate, the lyrics can be harsh: “a diamond swallowed and shit then swallowed again. At least we know where it’s been.” The record ends with “I don’t need you to understand, I need you to listen.” Ultimately, we want to be accepted by others while remaining proud about who we really are. – (8/10)