Perfume Genius: Too Bright

Glittered with transcendent brilliance, gilded shadows do not hide the empowered dramatic turn of Perfume Genius's Too Bright.

Perfume Genius

Too Bright

Label: Matador
US Release Date: 2014-09-23
UK Release Date: 2014-09-22
Label website

Beginning with his desultory 2010 debut Learning, Perfume Genius has delivered bedroom tales of sparse frankness. The back story of Mike Hadreas has been documented with each release. A gay man grappling with emotional and physical insecurities, such demons serving as muse, music as catharsis. With his latest, Too Bright, Hadreas has left those confines for a gleaming cabaret. This is not to say he’s gone pop; rather, the sheen of Too Bright is a facade that veils and drapes the unleashed torment of his latest collection of songs, his best yet as Perfume Genius.

Opening ballad "I Decline" neglects to hint at the lyrical rawness that follows. "Queen", the album's preening first single, bluntly plays upon heterosexual society’s fears of being taken to the homosexual woodshed and having asses broken and brought "into the fold". A grandiose warning, Hadreas proclaims, "No family is safe when I sashay." For such outward bombast, personal insecurities remain. Hadreas sings on "My Body", "I wear my body like a rotted peach / You can have it if you can handle the stink / I'm as open as a gutted pig." Asking how love can be found amongst such decrepitude, he posits on "No Good", "Am I meant to fray the edge? / On the outside looking in / All used up / But never used enough."

The body as golden bauble belies the penetrable shell incapable of hiding internal doubt on "Don’t Let Them In": "Don’t let them in / They're well intended / But each comment rattles some deep / Ancient queen." Rejecting the position of platonic pawn on the two-act doo-wop drama of "Fool", first fawning "like a cartoon", Hadreas disrupts domestic stability in the second verse: "I made your dress / I'm bleeding out / On the couch you bought / That I picked out." This paradox of subordinate versus equal plays out on the album's final two songs. Having succumbed to being "laid upon … each night" on the whimsical title track, Hadreas finally vocalizes his discontent on "All Along", the album's pleading closer where he delivers his rebuke: "I don't need your love / I don't need you to understand / I need you to listen".

Often criticised for the brevity of songs on Learning and Put Yr Back N 2 It, Hadreas and co-producer Adrian Utley (Portishead) wisely do not address this matter on Too Bright. It's 11 songs -- none reaching four minutes in length -- are given a largesse and volatility thanks to Utley's studio grafting of textures and layered vocals that both expand Perfume Genius' sonic pallet with throbs and horrific shrieks as on "Grid" and muddle lyrics as on the hellish drone of "I'm a Mother", which could double as an Angelo Badalamenti score for a David Lynch film.

Equal parts lyric and mood, the two create a dynamic tension on Too Bright that, regardless of sexual orientation, should be taken as a treatise on human frailty and the need for reciprocity in life and love. Glittered with transcendent brilliance, gilded shadows do not hide the empowered dramatic turn of Perfume Genius's Too Bright.





Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".


Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"


'How to Handle a Crowd' Goes to the Moderators

Anika Gupta's How to Handle a Crowd casts a long-overdue spotlight on the work that goes into making online communities enjoyable and rewarding.


Regis' New LP Reaffirms His Gift for Grinding Industrial Terror

Regis' music often feels so distorted, so twisted out of shape, even the most human moments feel modular. Voices become indistinguishable from machines on Hidden in This Is the Light That You Miss.


DMA's Go for BritElectroPop on 'The Glow'

Aussie Britpoppers the DMA's enlist Stuart Price to try their hand at electropop on The Glow. It's not their best look.


On Infinity in Miranda July's 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

In a strange kind of way, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is about two competing notions of "forever" in relation to love.


Considering the Legacy of Deerhoof with Greg Saunier

Working in different cities, recording parts as MP3s, and stitching them together, Deerhoof once again show total disregard for the very concept of genre with their latest, Future Teenage Cave Artists.


Joshua Ray Walker Is 'Glad You Made It'

Texas' Joshua Ray Walker creates songs on Glad You Made It that could have been on a rural roadhouse jukebox back in the 1950s. Their quotidian concerns sound as true now as they would have back then.


100 gecs Remix Debut with Help From Fall Out Boy, Charli XCX and More

100 gecs' follow up their debut with a "remix album" stuffed with features, remixes, covers, and a couple of new recordings. But don't worry, it's just as blissfully difficult as their debut.


What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.


Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi Remake "I Am the Antichrist to You" (premiere + interview)

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi team up for a gorgeous live performance of "I Am the Antichrist to You", which has been given an orchestral renovation.


Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.