Perfume Genius seemed to emerge from nowhere in June 2010 as debut LP Learning made a quiet but marked impact on those who heard it. Mike Hadreas’ stark and revealing lyrics came from an unsettling, dark place, and were coupled with a home-recorded feel in production, making for a record that lingered long in the memory.
This sophomore effort, Put Your Back N 2 It, is a massive step up in production values – in the sense that it was recorded with proper equipment – and it has also brought with that a collection of songs that have a considerably different feel. Whilst previously there seemed to be no hope, tracks like ‘Normal Song’ seem a bit more re-assuring and optimistic as he states clearly on ‘No Tear’, “I will carry on”. It’s a theme that carries on with lines like “He’ll never break you, baby” (‘Dark Parts’) and “I have grown weary on my own” (‘Take Me Home’).
The other great satisfaction with Put Your Back N 2 It is that Hadreas’ arrangements are finally as powerful as his lyrics. ‘Hood’ explodes into life halfway through with delightful pounding drums whilst ‘Dark Parts’ soars majestically. There are also some things that haven’t changed. Hadreas can still pull off beautiful vocal harmonies that resemble some of Sufjan Steven’s more tender moments. Songs like ‘Dirge’ and ‘Sister Song’ have a hymnal quality to them that makes for a captivating listen.
This is a record that will undoubtedly strike a chord with many and, just as he did with Learning, Hadreas pours all of his heart and soul into it. For him it seems the only way is up – not just in terms of what he’s singing about but also, hopefully, in terms of commercial acclaim.
Words: Max Raymond