Review Summary: Pride.
Coming to terms with one’s vulnerabilities is an important aspect of growing as a person. For Mike Hadreas, the man behind Perfume Genius, coming to terms with things like his self-proclaimed awkwardness and sexuality has been a journey that he has been trying to explore through his music since Perfume Genius’s conception. Life has been rough; but with “Too Bright”, Hadreas has taken those vulnerabilities and runs with them, for better or worse. There is definite pride here in the composition of this album, and Hadreas puts himself on display so that he does indeed, shine bright.
For such a mixed personality such as Hadreas though, this does yield mixed results. While his foray into more experimental synth-laden tracks such as “Grid” and “Queen” come off as sounding legitimately terrifying and heavily playful respectively; the more suppressed and stripped back like “No Good” and “Too Bright” feel slightly out of place due to their less threatening nature in comparison. While the album is not varied necessarily, Hadreas seems to shine more brightly when the album stays in its ironically more consistent experimental territory.
A lot of the mixed feelings have to do with how Hadreas utilizes his voice. It seems like it is at its best when he employs it as an atmospheric aesthetic rather than the center point. Highlight “I’m a Mother” is a truly chilling song that shows this done to frightening proportions, as his vocals are drowned in reverb and creepy effects as they enhance the slow, brooding, similar drenched-in-reverb synth; while “Grid’s” active synths, use of screams, and Hadreas’ more conversational performance make him sound like the leader of a chaotic movement. However, the more ballad formatted tracks don’t quite fit Hadreas more shaky voice.
Luckily for Hadreas, the production allows his eccentricities to shine bright on the standout tracks, while still managing a somewhat pleasing aesthetic on the “No Good’s” and “Too Bright’s”. An excellent example would be in “Don’t Let Them In”, where while Hadreas’ vocal style may be slightly off, the ethereal piano line that comes in during the midsection of the song eventually becomes a saving grace. As for the hit songs such as “Queen”, it just would not feel the same if the ominous distorted guitar combined with the blinking shiny synths were not presented so confidently.
Ultimately, that is what this album is about; Hadreas’ confidence and pride. Although not all the ideas might have stuck, he is not afraid to put his ideas out there because they represent what he is. Even the songs that may sound more self-deprecating like that of the more withdrawn subject matter of “My Body” and the brooding insecure sound of “I’m a Mother” still maintain an air of confidence just through the fact that Hadreas knows his music well – which make tracks with self-confident titles like “Queen” and “Too Bright” – shine even brighter.