Album Review: Say Yes To Love

Los Angeles’s FIDLAR was understandably the biggest thing in punk a couple of years ago. They weren’t (and still aren’t) particularly original, but they’d be the first to tell you that they don’t care (I really don’t, either, they sound great anyway). FIDLAR plays the same punk that has already been played before, and they’re really good at it, so…whatever. This abstract punk-rock concept has always been linked with tenuous and staunchly defended principles, but originality never seemed to be one of them, especially since the genre attracts the least talented and motivated musicians in rock ‘n roll. FIDLAR fit the mold, so here they came, drinking beer, snorting cocaine, destroying property, and lamenting the Earth’s pitiful state, and it worked because it was no different from anything else released since The Stooges decided to christen the era of rock ‘n roll debauchery with distortion and blood.

Enter Perfect Pussy: a Syracuse outfit with an un-google-able name and a very un-riot-grrrl frontwoman manning the helm of a very capable and fearsome fivesome. They released their debut EP I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling last year to little fanfare, and that’s very much a shame, because Feeling is everything a classic punk album should be: loud, short, relentless, unfiltered, bleak, and undeniably professional. But then it becomes overwhelmingly positive towards the end of the title track, with Meredith Graves finishes out the song by unironically yelling, “I AM FULL OF LIGHT…I AM FILLED WITH PEACE…I HAD A DREAM THAT I FORGAVE MY ENEMIES.” It’s a rallying cry that starkly contrasts that of FIDLAR’s most quoted line: “I…DRINK…CHEAP…BEER…SO…WHAT?…FUCK…YOU!” And while comparing Perfect Pussy and FIDLAR in the punk community can be a fight inducing apples-oranges debate, it’d be a very valid comparison to outside onlookers whose last taste of punk may have been early aughts power pop (of which most of us are AMBIVALENT).

That doesn’t mean we should pigeonhole Perfect Pussy into a relatively unpopulated “peace, love, happiness” punk subgenre, despite the joyous title of their fantastic new album. Much like FIDLAR’s eponymous debut, Perfect Pussy’s debut LP Say Yes To Love is warm, familiar, and inviting to anyone with a positive opinion of The Ramones. The production has improved slightly enough for the listener to hear what Graves says 50% of the time if he/she concentrates hard enough, and often times that effort is rewarded with some of the most poetic lyrics on any side of the rock ‘n roll spectrum. On “Driver,” Graves relinquishes all the positive philosophy so bravely testified on Feeling in a whirlwind of anxiety that reads like stand-up poetry:

I have a history of surrender

part of a certain set of choices

found along the many paths

forged by lies I told myself

lies like “I will be protected”

lies like “death might forget me”

like “home is where I’m never invited”

like “my voice provides a light”

Surrounding Graves this entire time is an unsympathetic wall of distortion whose drone exists only to stifle her message. But just to toy with her, the orchestration bows out at her most vulnerable moment, when she reaches back into her throat and screams out: “like I can have everything I want BEFORE I DIE.” It’s a brilliant use of negative space that demonstrates a band performing at a high level even when they’re not playing their guitars.

Which is ironic, because the most jaw-dropping moments on the album occur when the band stops playing their guitars. Along with dropping the orchestration into feedback drone at seemingly inappropriate moments, Perfect Pussy also has an affinity for soft, almost post-rock codas. They’re beautifully functional, allowing the listener to discern between tracks that would bleed into each other without a noticeable buffer, but they’re also stand-alone beautiful, the kind of filler that Deafheaven used to perfection on their modern classic Sunbather. The last fifty seconds of the album’s highlight “Interference Fits” flatlines the tension between the band’s more melodic side and the unfailing energy found on “Dig” and closer “Advance Upon The Real.” “Real” has the longest coda of them all, three and a half minutes long, and that’s a lifetime for an album that can be listened to front to back before your little sister finishes an episode of Scooby Doo.

The album’s only blemish regards how the listener should approach his/her enjoyment. Neither flailing with the band’s expertly executed energy nor following Graves’s harrowing introspection is the wrong choice, but sadly one can’t choose both at the same time. Thankfully, this an album that one will probably want to replay immediately after listening.

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. NPR Music has a video of their SXSW concert


Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s