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Perfume Genius – Learning (Organs/Turnstile)

June 24, 2010

Any artist who gets their single released through blog-turned-label Transparent is bound to have the rest of the blogosphere ticking and toe tapping in anticipation of more material. And for cogs caught in the wheel of the hype machine who, upon listening to Perfume Genius’ ‘Mr Petersen’, had their sonic appetites yearning for more soul baring songs so sincere and angst-ridden that their own emotional cracks began leaking at the seams, there is little to be disappointed by with his debut LP Learning.

Perfume Genius, aka Mike Hadreas, appears in all his photographs as a thin, pale young man whose face is gaunt and often covered in paint shop bruises. He is the physical embodiment of his own gut wrenching music – full of harrowing tales laid bare for the rest of the world to digest, no doubt a highly cathartic experience for Hadreas.

At times, the record is wondrously beautiful; ‘Lookout, Lookout’ is the dictionary-definition of haunting and closing track ‘Never Did’ reverberates around your heartstrings. Notably the tracks on the album are chronological. Taking the listener through Hadreas’ personal process, ‘Never Did’ is the dawn breaking over the dark night of his emotional meltdown. And it’s touching to say the least.
But it’s hard to suppress a cynical giggle in the face of such adverse sincerity. Despite the lack of chin-length fringe or smudged eyeliner, there is an inescapable emo quality to Learning. Hiding out at your mother’s place to write sad songs about your painful experiences is almost comically depressing.

But Hadreas avoids coy, overly cryptic lyrics and prefers instead to tell his tales as candidly as we could possibly tolerate. Lifting his debut away from being too self-indulgent and redefining the suitability of paedophiles and alcohol abuse as the themes of popular songs.

[originally reviewed for Bearded]

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