“Desire is fetishism! What does it mean to be aroused? Touch your every desire! The gloved hand as its own universe.” Zoiks! The pre-coital pillow talk from Travis Egedy proclaiming Pictureplane’s sophomore release would’ve made even the Pint-Served Prancing Purple Pervert of Pop Prince blush and declare “Ewww, that’s just filthy“. We live in a time where everything is sexualized anyway, from candy to dog food. What is actually sexy anymore? Well, I feared the worst, and half-expected Thee Physical to be delivered in a brown paper bag. At night. Time to shut the windows and pull the curtains. What deranged depravity would lurk within? The Marquis de Sade with an 808? Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” with added cowbell? Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”…on acid>? For the love of God, it’s released via Lovepump Records and is housed in a sleeve which suggests only one thing, “Smell the glove”. Forgive me Father, for I may sin. Yet despite this all, the whole truth of Thee Physical is even more shocking …
At first touch, the threatened ruckus of orgiastic pleasure appears underwhelming to say the least. You’ll find yourself gazing out of the window, thinking about what to have for tea, etc. “Is this IT?” you’ll exclaim. All of my giddy, “I shouldn’t really. Oh go on then”, trepidation only to be thrown some early ’90s plink-plonk, “Down the rave-up? ‘Avin’ it large! Get right on one matey!” revivalism?
Opener “Body Mod” mashes up Moby’s Twin Peaks inspired “Go” with a drum ‘n’ bass underlay last seen in a skip outside Roni Size’s house. The result sounds mysteriously like a jungalist tribute to the theme from cheeky ’70s sitcom Are You Being Served?. Sexy? Not even close. The tee-hee “Sex Mechanism” similarly fails to quicken the pulse, being a shoulder shruggin’ piece of glitchy dubstep with some antique diva-ish hollers of “Baby c’mon show me”. Show you what? The door? In fact as “Sex Mechanism”‘s go, it’s more of your workaday “ON / OFF” switch rather than a super-foxy dial that spins to 11. Then there’s “Touching Transform” which is basically the Ibiza-in-a-bottle banger that is Liquid’s “Sweet Harmony”, only not as good. At this point you’ll be forgiven for feigning a migraine and making a swift exit.
But stick around, this is where the houselights go down and where the magic happens. “Black Nails” sparks some early anticipation of later delights. Picture a cuddlier Crystal Castles. Dark, heavy, classy. “I got some black nails”, it smokes, “C’mon let me feel you now”. Ooh Matron! The really big guns come out, though, with recent single “Post Physical”. A broody, sleek slice of dream pop worthy of M83. It positively prowls with promise and is the first time Thee Physical really steams up your glasses. Time to loosen that collar, the night has arrived …
From herein, Egedy basically knocks it out of the park. The boy/girl exchange of vows ‘n’ vices on the buzzing electro of “Techno Fetish” is — grim title aside — driving, cinematic and convincingly intense. The bouncing “Breath Work”, meanwhile, is a showcase of a master magician toying with his captivated audience. Hold it now … wait for it … wait for it … GO! A rush of tension, release and energy. It’s a blast. “Real Is a Feeling” and “Trancegender” hit the hot spot hardest, though. The former a glorious, burning bright pop moment draped in dirty, fat rolling urban bass, stuttering break-beats and enough twinkly, sparkly glitter to shame the northern lights. While “Trancegender”, another monster jam in waiting, cross breeds the SOS Band’s aching “Just Be Good to Me” with the ping-pong melody of the Cure’s “Close to Me” and shines like fireworks blooming in slow motion. A heartfelt rally to break the mold and flip the script à la Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend”. “Could you be my boy, if I was your girl?” yelps Egedy in his light, oddly delicate one-part Michael Jackson, three-parts Darren Hayes’ voice.
If anything, Thee Physical pulls the plug just when the party is in full fever. “Thee Power Hand” bangs with a beat reminiscent of angry neighbors hammering on your door, before steaming by on what sounds like a giant locomotive. “Do you like your body? Is it just any body?” offers Egedy, more concerned life-coach than lubricious Lothario. But before you even get to try purring in your best Barry White tones, “Take off that brassiere my dear”, someone flicks the lights on and you’re left feeling “Hey, I was just getting started”. Better to leave ’em craving more ,though, eh?
So despite some desperately un-sexy, clumsy faux-pas in the introduction, Thee Physical does ultimately deliver a gratifyingly memorable evening and is ripe for the plucking. It will leave you buzzin’ ‘n’ breathless with a warm glow and a satisfied smile, just not in the way you’d expected. Brush aside any nerdy nervousness or stumbling shyness — there’s no need to don a gimp mask, remember a code word or put an orange in your mouth. You can even leave it blaring away guilt free when the Vicar next comes around for tea. Girls, boys, fear the black gloved hand no more! Embrace it. Try it on. Don’t smell it though, that’s just weird.