Look out, look out, for the man who came in with little fanfare and left just as unassumingly not too long after. For that brief hour or less, Mike Hadreas – performing as Perfume Genius – was laid bare for all, his music an intimate, knotted struggle. As in their recorded versions in his debut album Learning, the songs all sounded too short and ended too abruptly, drawing out each time an awkward pause before the applause. But Hadreas knows awkwardness well enough to let those moments linger, keeping the tension going with an audience probably more nervious than he.
As the opener, “Perry” was an apt introduction to the tormented world of Perfume Genius, of memories haunted and still raw. Captivatingly, Hadreas worked hard in each of the subsequent songs to present the dark as beautiful, with the deeply personal “Learning” and “Mr. Peterson” garnering the most unanimous response from a 100-strong crowd that was mostly appreciative but at times dumbstruck. For me, it was the brittle cry and grippingly bare piano of “Look Out, Look Out” that struck hardest, that unsettled wariness remaining even as the bar started to clear and the evening to close. – Dan.
mp3: Perfume Genius – Look Out, Look Out
The Perfume Genius gig at Blujaz was made possible by 4imaginaryboys. Learning is out now on Matador Records.
the difficulty with being a “fan” of elliott smith or xiu xiu lies with how hard it is to “like” the pain and brutality exposed so starkly in their music. the same goes with the debut album by perfume genius, a moniker that thinly veils the confessional songwriting of mike hadreas. while the subject matter is similarly bruised and battered, learning takes a rather different path from smith’s underdog poetry and jamie stewart’s tragic theatrics, opting instead for feeble harmonies more reminiscent of the less ornate offerings of sufjan stevens (heartbreakers like illinoise‘s “casimir pulaski day” come to mind). comparisons aside, learning stands on its own as a record of much sadness, present not only in the words but more pervasively in hadreas’ breath and consequently everything he touches. the simple piano intro of the penultimate track “perry” attempts to clear the air, but only for a moment before the sadness returns with a greater heaviness, which i frankly don’t know how to deal with. – dan.
mp3: perfume garden – perry
learning is out now on matador records.