Perfume Genius – No Shape – Album Review
Irish Release Date: Friday, 5 May 2017
LIVE: Electric Picnic, Stradbally – September 2017
Mike Hadreas returns with his first album since ‘Too Bright’ in 2014 and his fourth as Perfume Genius. There’s an expectation along with a release from Hadreas, during his short career, he has made considerable waves and there is a sense that he is destined for something more. As an openly gay boy in high-school, he received death threats from his fellow classmates, which must have deeply affected his teenage years. There is a sense that the man was never willing to comprise or hide who he truly is, which is evident from his music.
The album opens with the gentle piano of Otherside, which is shortly joined by his own rasping voice leading a choir. This gentle opening does not prepares us for the euphoric blast, setting the stage for something quietly epic. Slip Away increases the size and scope, another gentle opening that tricks us before a blast of bass and drums as he sings ‘Baby, let all them voices Slip Away’. ‘Just like Love’ opens with cheesy keyboard and bass, and is a quieter moment allowing the vocals to take centre stage. ‘Go Ahead’ has more unusual percussion/ bass sounds to open the track along with a hint of keyboard. It could almost be a lost Prince track, with the vocal style reminiscent of the recently departed great. Valley opens with guitar and vocal, and is an aspirational song from the lyrics – ‘How long must we live right, before we don’t even have to try’. Later strings introduce another layer of complexity into one of the best songs on this collection. The song fades as it is just getting started and no song on this album lasts over five minutes.
Perfume Genius – “I pay my rent. I’m approaching health. The things that are bothering me personally now are less clear, more confusing. I don’t think I really figured them out with these songs. There’s something freeing about how I don’t have it figured out. Unpacking little morsels, magnifying my discomfort, wading through buried harm, laughing at or digging in to the embarrassing drama of it all. I may never come out the other side but it’s invigorating to try and hopefully, ultimately helpful. I think a lot of them are about trying to be happy in the face of whatever bullshit I created for myself or how horrible everything and everyone is.”
Wreath is an upbeat synth and vocal track, which gets more lavish in its arrangement as it progresses. Every Night opens with a moment of calm, with gentle piano and vocals, later we get strings but it remains on the softer side. Choir opens with a violin flourish and wafting vocals, with more musings on dreams and spoken vocals which don’t quite work. The title ‘Die 4 You’ evokes Prince once more, but the track is quite far removed, more late night bar room until a change where it becomes more wafting for one of the more memorable tracks. Sides features lush vocals from Weyes Blood that alter the mood.
Out of the later tracks, ‘Braids’ is a sorrowful track that is gone before you notice. ‘Run Through me’ is reminiscent of Spirit of Eden era Talk Talk and works well. Alan is the final track and opens with wafting orchestral sounds before a clear voice tells a gentle tale of love ‘Did you notice, we sleep through the night’.
Hadreas learned piano during his teenage years and it is clearly the basis of all his songs. There is great variation in the album, each track is treated as an individual in terms of arrangement, with guest vocals and playful touches marking each one out. Having said that, they don’t fight against each other and it flows well as an album. It is probably not the album that will help him take that next step, as there is nothing as catchy as Queen from his previous collection. It is certainly an album that his fans will learn to love.
1 Otherside – 2:40
2 Slip Away – 2:45
3 Just Like Love – 3:14
4 Go Ahead – 2:53
5 Valley – 3:09
6 Wreath – 4:26
7 Every Night – 2:47
8 Choir – 2:28
9 Die 4 You – 3:32
10 Sides – 4:52
11 Braid – 2:58
12 Run Me Through – 4:44
13 Alan – 2:46