Sunday, June 14, 2015

Too Bright, by Perfume Genius, (Album of the Week)

I’m glad it took us a couple weeks to write our review of “Too Bright” by Perfume Genius, because my thinking has evolved miles from my first impressions.  Honestly, this review is going to be more about me than it will be about the music, but, in my defense, I think that is exactly what Perfume Genius is aiming for.  Perfume Genius is looking to produce reactions at least as much as sound. 

On first listen, I enjoyed the slick production, catchy melodies and the beautiful vocals, but I rolled my eyes a bit.  The album is focused on the homosexuality of Michael Hadreas, the solo artist behind “Perfume Genius”.  The album cover itself looks like an amalgamation of David Bowie covers, and the near-falsetto voice sings songs like “Queen”. 

I’m sorry, but here’s the initial reaction of a white, middle-aged straight , male liberal – “I don’t think being gay is as interesting anymore as he thinks it is.”  In a day when marriage equality is rolling through the states like Germany rolling through Poland, in a city with a gay Country-Western bar, and an environment where athletes, sit-com characters and politicians are openly gay, isn’t a bit late to the party to come out with an album obsessing about being gay?

In other words, aren’t we post-homophobic?  (Kind of like we’re post-racist?)

In other words, can’t you just be quiet about it, Michael Hadreas? 

In other words, you’re pushing my buttons, Michael Hadreas, playing me like the piano and making me, gasp, realize that my shallow “I’m okay, you’re okay” acceptance of homosexuality isn’t all that far removed from quiet bigotry.  I might not be spewing hatred like Westboro Baptists, but I’ve still got some growing to do. 

Enough about me and my confessional – there’s a lot of great music on this album.  It opens with “I Decline”, a carefully arranged piece with gentle piano and soaring synthesizer and slow lyrics.  “Queen”, the next song, draws a bunch of musical hooks together to have some fun.  “No family is safe/when I sashay”, he brags in a skewering of the anti-marriage-equality folk, before playing with the fears of those who oppose allowing gay people to serve in the military – “Casing the barracks/For an ass to break and harness into the fold”.

For a solo artist, Perfume Genius brings a variety of sounds.  “No Good”, a sad song about the difficulty of building a real love in the furtive gay world, has a distinct Avett Brothers sound, and “Don’t Let Them In” drops his voice down a couple notches and he sounds a bit like Jake Bugg.  You won’t be bored by the sounds on this album – it’s fresh, inventive, and professionally produced.

Over at Deliberate Obfuscation, Robin appreciates the creativity and the boldness of Michael Hadreas, without my initial narrow-mindedness.  Later in the summer, we will get the chance to see Perfume Genius live.

The closing lyrics of this album could have been written directly to me, and those, like me, who might feel just a twinge of deeply-buried, ugly discomfort on hearing this well-composed, beautiful album:

I don't need your love
I don't need you to understand
I need you to listen

This is definitely an album worth listening to.

Next up:  Rips, by Hex Ex

No comments:

Post a Comment