Mike Hadreas is the curious mind behind Perfume Genius. His third and latest album, Too Bright, is a confident advance in his career. The record is certainly similar to its predecessors in its fundamentals; Hadreas is still writing highly personal, confessional lyrics, but the album is almost unrecognisable in its self-belief and experimentalism.
Too Bright opens with ‘I Decline’, a gentle introduction which contrasts a soft piano chord progression with chilling electric guitar, heavy on the reverb, – our first clue that Too Bright will be quite different from Hadreas’ earlier releases. The album continues to experiment with its use of instruments and synthesisers, allowing the Seattle born singer songwriter, who once dealt almost exclusively in delicate piano laments, to unify and establish the power in his lyrics with that of his music.
The first single from the record, ‘Queen’, is an aggressive response to what Hadreas called ‘gay panic’, explaining that there is power to be taken from the idea that one’s mere existence makes others feel uneasy. Hadreas has channelled this feeling of discomfort for his listeners, as synthesized vocals demand “Don’t you know your queen/Cracked/Peelin’/Riddled with disease”. A sense of humour remains however, as the chorus chimes ‘No family is safe/when I sashay’, an amusing attack on homophobia, as sexuality continues to be an important theme in the music of Perfume Genius.
The album is concise, running at a meagre half an hour, which perhaps intensifies the wealth of emotion which Hadreas supplies. ‘Fool’ reminds us of the power of his vocal, which mixes emotive falsetto with dance synths. The album concludes with another standout, ‘All Along’. Hadreas sings the resonating ‘I don’t need your love/ I don’t need you to understand/ I need you to listen’.
From the once devastatingly shy musician, who frequently came close to tears in interviews, the new album is a triumph which fully demonstrates Hadreas’ capabilities.
Too Bright is not by any means easy listening, but its bold themes of both addiction and sadness make it both harrowing and beautiful in equal measures.