Ben Greenberg (the Men, Hubble) Talks Perfect Pussy’s Say Yes to Love
The closing of 285 Kent, the former warehouse in waterfront Williamsburg, saw more press coverage than all the talented artist and musician residents of the space’s former incarnation (known as ParisLondonWestNile) combined. The crowd at 285 was mostly kids who grew up listening to music on the web, sampling this or that aural cuisine at their leisure, forming or quoting quick opinions on a buzz band of the moment in place of true bonds to honest musical expression.
I was among those at the last show at 285 Kent, in January. As hard as the crowd partied that night, people were equally sad about it on the internet, which lit up with various posts mourning the loss of a clubhouse, HQ, party central, whatever you want to call it.
But the saddest thing I witnessed that night was an impromptu full-room sing-a-long to some System of a Down nü-metal song that came over the PA between bands. It was a weird moment. It caught me off guard. I kinda didn’t believe it was really happening, and then I knew it was and it was all around me and I couldn’t ignore it, and that was slightly terrifying: trapped in some 20- or maybe, at oldest, 24-year-old’s ironic rallying cry of defiance, simultaneously a joke and a sincere reaction to what must have been considered a touchstone for modern aggressive music in most of the room’s young minds. I get that it was a funny moment for the participants, but what really bummed me out was realizing that the audience’s mass karaoke moment was a larger expression of how they think about rock music or music in general: like pads on a sampler, each one bringing up a sound that’s supposed to summon a time or a place or a feeling or what might be looked at in retrospect as a certain stylistic moment.
Perfect Pussy is, I believe, the last band that got a lot of attention from the 285 Kent crowd before the place closed the doors and dismantled the bouncy plywood stage for good. The band’s bio name-checks Sonic Youth — because, as we all know, you can’t be a band in 2014 without name-checking Sonic Youth — the VSS, and Cro-Mags, but to my ears they’re way more like the Red Light Sting or the Sick Lipstick or some other Canadian squealy post-hardcore band from the early aughts whose baditude is unabashedly waved in your face while you try to figure out just exactly what caused it in the first place — too much homework this week? Your Jetta ran out of wiper fluid? Is your boss at the Pita Pit giving you a hard time about coming in late again? Perfect Pussy’s debut LP is called Say Yes To Love and it’s out on the heels of a tremendous buzz generated from the band’s loud-and-fast Bandcamp demo last year. The record has its moments but is generally pretty one-note in its sound. Sometimes, like on the album’s second single “Interference Fits,” the band gets slightly slower and maybe even a little prettier. But when you take a step back from that track, the guitar part sounds like something off a Cursive record. The song’s minute-long ambient outro feels tacked-on, like someone left the tape recorder running by mistake after the band left the room.
However you want to characterize Perfect Pussy’s sound, they do a good job of rendering it. The playing on the record is loud and tight, and the production has the right kind of distortion all over it (whether it comes from a blown cassette four-track, or some software plug-in, or from two RAT pedals, or whatever). The vocals are all run through a distortion pedal of their own, which yawns with feedback whenever the singer isn’t singing. I read somewhere that the purpose of this was to somehow bury the vocals in the mix, but what it winds up doing is actually sitting the vocal performance front and center and louder than everything else — whether there are vocals happening or not. But hey, it’s a sound, and yes, the sound is there, and when all you kiddies press the “2014 Loud Band” button on the sampler in your musical brains, what comes out will sound period-accurate and remind you that yes, you did pogo in a dimly lit room while on a bunch of drugs that year. Just like how hearing a System of a Down song blast over the PA presses another brain-button to remind you that yes, you did sit around your suburban basement and try to find drugs when you were in high school, and that experience had a soundtrack, or a sonic imprint, as well.
In both cases the question remains, were you having a sincere reaction to the content of the music, or were you just yukking it up and rolling with the sonic moment? For the answer we turn to my favorite subject: the songs. On this record, there are very few songs. The album’s first six tracks feature actual vocals/guitar/bass/drums, i.e., “band” material. But eventually, Say Yes to Love succumbs to increasing amounts of seemingly pointless electronic/noise/ambient/whatever meanderings. Perhaps the band feels that these moments are an important textural contrast to the more straight-up rock songs on the record, or maybe they just didn’t have time to write more songs before the record had to be submitted to their label, and they decided to pad an EP’s worth of music with 5-10 minutes of filler. But even with the filler, the record is still only 24 minutes long.
Say Yes To Love strikes me as something that was hastily pieced together when the band was offered a record deal. The proper songs on the record are pretty hard to distinguish from one another; “Interference Fits” sticks out most from the pack, but I still couldn’t tell you how it goes from memory. All told, about a third of the album’s running time is filler. The last track, “VII,” comes on the heels of three and a half minutes of frustrating, meandering filler at the end of “Advance Upon the Real,” and is itself four and a half minutes of white-noised-out filler, though more developed than the previous filler. Then, at the end of the last bit of noise-collage filler, there’s another solid minute of ambient/quiet filler. And then the record is over, whether you’ve noticed or not.