Release Date: Feb 21, 2012
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
Rock and roll is generally about magnifying power; instead, Mike Hadreas amps up vulnerability. That can be powerful, too: witness the mighty shiver of a croon throughout his second LP (not to mention that homoerotic ad for it that YouTube cowardly refused). Violence and creepy sex haunt these sparse songs; "string it up on a fence/cover it with semen," Hadreas intones on the suicide-conjuring "17." While potent, his voice is a limited instrument, and the best songs here push past his debut's piano-student minimalism into full-on girl-group drama.
Perfume GeniusPut Your Back N 2 It[Matador; 2012]By Philip Cosores; February 20, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetWhile sophomore albums always present some level of difficulty, a debut album like Perfume Genius' Learning seems particularly tricky to follow-up. Learning offered a fair amount of pleasure just based on the immediacy of the home-sounding recording style and the quivering voice of Mike Hadreas that announced "hey, I'm being fuckin' honest right now," but it is almost impossible to separate the backstory behind the album from the actual recorded material once you are privy to Hadreas' life events, which went from years of drug abuse and self-destruction to a clean break from his dangerous lifestyle through isolating himself in his mother's home, producing his first songs as a way to deal with the past. Put Your Back N 2 It, the follow-up to Learning, stares at the task at hand and refuses to blink, proving that Hadreas' charms extend beyond the scope previously seen, allowing the songwriter to successfully leave the safe confines of his bedroom project and match its intimacy in a big studio, while adding enough elements to create an entirely new listening experience.
Has anyone seen Mike Hadreas and Sufjan Stevens in the same room? Hadreas’ second album as Perfume Genius does nothing to dissuade comparisons, both voice and imagery evoking a Seven Swans–era Stevens. But where the States-happy troubadour fell into orchestral opulence early on, Hadreas continues to opt for minimalism. The result is Put Your Back N 2 It—a delicate collection of near-gospel songs for the brokenhearted.
How do we deal with personal trauma? After it's over, what comes next? These are some of the Big Questions Seattle singer/songwriter Mike Hadreas addresses on his second album as Perfume Genius. Put Your Back N 2 It follows Hadreas' overlooked 2010 debut, Learning, and it feels like a proper sequel to that album's suite of dysfunction and devastation. On his first album, Hadreas tackled subjects such as molestation, substance abuse, suicide, the complications of inappropriate sexual relationships, and the struggle for acceptance from those you love.
Let’s take a minute to consider the intense emotional revelation of the first 10 minutes of Perfume Genius’ debut record Learning. A twinkling, iPhone-ad piano introduced with a needling “no one will answer your prayers till you take off that dress,” then a haunted allegory of a deeply confused high school teacher trading weed for sexual favors before casting himself off the top of a building. It earned Perfume Genius man Mike Hadreas some talking-points because, well, these are things we must have conversations about.
Sometimes the personal can’t help but be political, when the way you choose to express yourself ends up taking a social stance, whether you mean it to or not. That’s one way to describe what Perfume Genius’s Mike Hadreas faces up to when making music, as the kind of artist who transforms his most private and intimate reflections into something much more. So while Hadreas has gotten the most attention for his unflinching accounts of sex and the psychological complications that come with it, his second album Put Your Back N 2 It touches what’s more essential and not so sensational about his songs’ subject matter, appealing to a broader human condition by embracing his specific experiences as a gay man.
The online trailer for Perfume Genius' Put Your Back N 2 It, which featured Mike Hadreas being cradled like a baby in the arms of gay porn star Arpad Miklos, presented the perfect imagery for the growth in Hadreas' music since his debut, Learning. That album, which combined music that sounded like a bootleg of a piano recital with devastatingly intimate observations about the different ways people hurt each other, felt like a cry in the dark. Put Your Back N 2 It shows how much Hadreas learned from Learning: it's more confident but still subversive, like the work of someone who's come through troubles stronger and can comfort others.
When did we reach a point where being impressed by a work of art meant overly complicating a song with all sorts of twists and turns? Even in the realm of top 40 radio, every little hook and melody designed by some top of the line DJ feels agitated and stirred up, riddled with an adrenaline rush of digital sound bytes. There’s no room for the bashful, Diane Warren type anymore – a songwriter’s entire personality has to be edgy, fast-paced and to the point; plus, it doesn’t hurt if you paint your hair blue for kicks to capture the attention of even the smallest child, who’s oblivious to your every perverted innuendo and thinks you’re just wacky. It’d still be imprecise to categorize Perfume Genius, the alias of Seattle native Mike Hadreas, under the same umbrella as that of a sensitive balladeer backed up by an army of songwriters behind the veil.
When Mike Hadreas crawled under his bedsheets at his mother’s house in Everett, Washington a few years back, something clicked. Feeling at the end of his rope after a dark period spent messing with drink and drugs in Seattle, Hadreas had gone home to regroup, and quickly found himself writing the spare, wracked confessionals that wound up on ‘Learning’, his 2010 debut under the moniker Perfume Genius.A remarkable effort it was, too. Dealing with topics of addiction, abuse, and the author’s wrestle with his own sexuality, ‘Learning’, like a crash mat at the bottom of a seven-story drop, offered comfort in the unlikeliest of places.
There are some artists that evidently try too hard, some that obviously fake it, and then there's Perfume Genius. Say what you will about Seattle-based musician and songwriter Mike Hadreas but one notable aspect of almost all his compositions is an undeniable tendency to wear his heart on both sleeves. Whereas 2010's captivating debut Learning provided a brutally honest introduction to the world of Hadreas as Perfume Genius, its successor Put Your Back N 2 It documents heartbreak, rekindled love, family ties and hopefulness in 12 oblique yet minimalist pieces.
Given that Perfume Genius's breakthrough debut was a lo-fi bedroom affair mastered from second-generation mp3s, its follow-up is a chance for Seattle-based singer/songwriter and pianist Mike Hadreas to give greater clarity and breadth of expression to his striking melodies in a proper studio. Like his debut, Put Your Back N 2 It is a collection of songs about addiction, hustling, suicide, gay sex and self-doubt, though it's slightly more expansive in scope. Not only is Hadreas's fearless falsetto easier to hear, but it's also surrounded by uplifting flourishes and fine detail: ephemeral sounds on the Edna St.
The first sound heard on Put Your Back N 2 It is Mike Hadreas taking a deep, stilted breath. It’s the kind of breath heard before confessionals and admissions, one last inhalation and exhalation before some serious truth is dropped. Hadreas, as Perfume Genius, has previously served heaping portions of truth with little to no sugar to help them go down — which is still one of his strengths.
The title of Perfume Genius' second album may suggest exertion, and the first sound you hear when you listen to it is a deep, labored breath, but the music's execution and emotional impact feel more like letting go. Lovely, at times heart-wrenching, and musically fragile to the point of shattering, the record plays like a series of themes serving as lifetime codas, even when the lyrics suggest otherwise. .
Imagine that Lana Del Rey weren't a pert-lipped caricature of a woman, singing songs about low-rent love, but a young man. You might land upon the appeal of Perfume Genius, a singer whose blacker-than-noir accounts have the tang of reportage about them. It's true, Perfume Genius's songs don't pout and grind like Del Rey's, despite the hip hop reference in the title of his second album, Put Your Back N 2 It.
For his second album as Perfume Genius, Seattle's Michael Hadreas adds a twist of confidence to the bare-bones, piano-and-reverb approach of his lovely debut, Learning. That's not to say he's ditching his delicate template, no matter what that Prince-meets-Ice Cube title suggests – the intriguing touches that make this album sing are more subtle, less showy, and reveal themselves on repeated listens. He adds creepy layers of deeper octaves to the hook of No Tear, indulges a distinctly poplike climax in Hood, and tells a remarkable tale of romance in the standout song Take Me Home: "I run my mouth like a fool/ I'll be so quiet for you … be like a shadow of a shadow of a shadow for you.
‘Put Your Back N 2 It’ is unlikely to win over the people who didn’t like the first Perfume Genius album. Let’s get that out of the way: It doesn’t diverge wildly from the template Mike Hadreas set with ‘Learning’; but, the people who didn’t like it were just plain wrong anyway. We know that isn’t how opinions tend to work, but this is a special exception.If you’re not already acquainted with Hadreas and Perfume Genius, a primer: he performs emotionally intense ballads in measured tones, voice occasionally cracking for dramatic effect.
So much about being an artist is sharing your feelings and sentiments to the world and hoping it all sounds genuine. Often, we’re jaded by musicians who attempt to understand the real world and mundane lives during the grime, when the musician has no idea what is happening – let alone how much a gallon of gas costs. That isn’t the case so much with more underground and independent musicians as most artists make music around and after their daytime job, adjusting and re-adjusting to family, friends and money, while trying to take hold of ambitions.
I've twice met Mike Hadreas while writing about his band, Perfume Genius, for The Quietus. On both occasions, he was freezing cold. Back in 2010, we conducted an interview in the vestry of St. Phillip's Church in Salford on an icy winter's evening. Hadreas was shaking not only as a means of ….
Music from a bleakly beautiful twilight zone entirely of its own design. Martin Aston 2012 Mike Hadreas’ music as Perfume Genius has an overwhelming aura of not just frailty but a haunted shadow, as if he was running scared or simply rooted to the spot with fear. As well he might, given the reaction to the 16-second promo for Put Your Back N 2 It: the still-life embrace between two men was banned online for "promoting mature sexual themes", and so failed a “family safe” code.