Review: Perfume Genius | Too Bright

We don’t talk about music videos anymore. Barring the civilization-unadvancing Nicki Minaj videos, the context and effort of independent artist video pieces is too easily lost, drowned out and under-appreciated by all except the non-casual fan. This seems important when we talk about Perfume Genius, the stage name for Seattle born artist Mike Hadreas.

His video for Hood in 2012 is a remarkable case in point. Visceral music videos like those from Nine Inch Nails (March of the pigs) feature strongly in the work of Perfume Genius albeit with far more playfulness. Hadreas injects personal themes and trademark searching in confronting doses. Debut album track Mr. Petersen was written about a high school teacher who allowed his students to smoke weed in his truck in return for sexual favours. This kind of storytelling is hard to shake once you’ve heard an album or seen his live shows (Perfume Genius performed at Brisbane’s Laneway Festival in 2012).  As a music fan you are better for it.

With Genius’ third and latest album Too Bright there is less on the topic of emotion-laid-bare and in its place we’ve got a beefed up outfit prepared to have fun. With the first single, Queen there is more extroversion, relative to the body of work and glam is scattered liberally.

There’s a good dose of Americana throughout in tracks like Don’t Let Them In and Too Bright. Dissonant chorus whirs and backing are provided by PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish and Portishead’s Adrian Utley. Their effect is keenly felt on Fool and Grid respectively. There’s a Radiohead like quality in the way competing textures rise to the fore then fall back. It’s rare this year to want to applaud the evolution of an artist or group quite as much as Perfume Genius. It makes Too Bright one of 2014’s genuinely intriguing releases.

 

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