Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It (2012)

GOOD SAD OLD BASTARD MUSIC

To be quite simple, I don’t envision Mike Hadreas as a guy with a big sense of humor. You should abandon any expectations of that if you’re going to give his musical act, Perfume Genius, a listen. I’m certainly understanding that art can emerge from pain and that dark subject matter can make for tremendous music, but there are times where this guy goes into a world of melancholy that would make Radiohead say, “Jeeze, lighten up.” Put Your Back N 2 It doesn’t have any of the heavy handed social commentary of his first album, but the guy definitely still seems a tad depressed. The songs deal with drug addiction, sex addiction, abuse, and other water cooler material.

I don’t know if I have ever seen a more misleading title for an album in my life. The playful text language seems to suggest a Merrill Garbus adventure time. Indeed not. The songs are deep, well though out and, if anything, deeply personal. It’s definitely a bold ambition; to bear your skin and bones, throw yourself into themes that demand to be taken seriously and ask your audience to join in. If done poorly, it could easily slip into a pretentious zone. For as troubling as the songs are to listen to, the album is done well. I will give it that much. Every track is meticulously crafted with a despondent tone that I can only describe as poetic or artistic. At its very best, it gives us the simply beautiful “Normal Song” or “Take Me Home.” At its very worst, it gives us the bemoaning “Dark Parts”or trembling title track.

It all rests with Hadreas’s deeply troubled vocals. I never really took a definitive stance on it. There were times where it reminded my fondly of Win Butler’s waffling emotions, but certainly some other times where it reminded me of the “what does it all mean” kid who skips class and whines about everything in his life. Most of the time,  it just kept reminding me of Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra.

To really put it in perspective, I harken back a line from the film High Fidelity. John Cusack’s character angrily shuts off a mix tape including “Walkin’ on Sunshine” and “Little Latin Lupe Lu” because he just broke up with his girlfriend and wants something he can ignore. Jack Black’s character angrily retorts,  “Go ahead. Go back and listen to your sad old bastard music.” That’s what this is. It’s sad old bastard music. That’s really not a dig. It’s some terrific sad old bastard music, but sad old bastard music nonetheless. If you’re looking for a piercing experience and a soundtrack to reflect on the troubles of a modern society, then full steam ahead. If you’re looking for something to enjoy, then forget this ever happened.

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