AMANDA PALMER & THE GRAND THEFT ORCHESTRA
After the stripped-down self-indulgence of Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radio Head on Her Magical Ukele and Several Attempts to Cover Songs by the Velvet Underground & Lou Reed, this return to studio form by the former Dresden Doll is a welcome reminder of how powerful she can be when she gets serious from within walls of sound. She can still come off exhibitionistic: Complaining and boasting about her own sensitivity for seven minutes in “Trout Mask Replica,” she makes one wish she’d cover “He Hit Me (and It Felt like a Kiss).” But give her points for universalizing the tragic-comic details of performing-artist promiscuity (“Do It with a Rockstar”), hating omnipresent cameras (“Smile [Pictures or It Didn’t Happen]”), and leaving her ukelele at home.
Put Your Back N 2 It
With society’s increasing tolerance for homosexuality has come a corresponding tolerance for homosexual love songs, but tolerance and enjoyment are two different things. And therein lies Mike Hadreas’s--a.k.a. Perfume Genius’s--challenge. From the swim-team pecs on Put Your Back N 2 It‘s cover to the “Hood” video in which Hadreas cuddles with a porn actor, there’s none of the ambiguity that gay singer-songwriters have traditionally used to help straights universalize a gay song’s dramatic situation. So if anything is going to put Perfume Genius over, it isn’t the quiet desperation of Hadreas’s vocals but his music’s gauzily sad, lazily hymn-like languor, about which the following observations: Fans of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks music will love it, and, compared to Justin Vernon, Hadreas sounds like Bruce Springsteen.
Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984
You want obscure? How about this--seventeen songs by fifteen acts, none of whom have a Wikipedia entry and only four of whom merit a mention at Allmusic.com. The subtitle sets the stylistic and chronological parameters, but “blaxploitation-film soundtrack” would’ve done just as well. Amid spacey soundscapes, slinky-moist synthesizers punctuate reified ghetto emotions recollected in tranquility: “Can’t pay the rent, can’t drive my car without money” (Spontaneous Overthrow, “Money”); “Gather, all you saints of God, / it’s time to go with Jesus Christ” (Otis G Johnson, “Time to Go Home”); “When you’ve got a freaky feelin’, baby, and you discover that your body is willin’, ... are you ready to come” (U.S. Aries, “Are You Ready to Come”)? It wasn’t recorded inside Sly Stone’s head, obviously, but it could’ve been.
PUBLIC IMAGE LTD.
This Is PiL
The former Johnny Rotten inaugurates his first Public Image Ltd. album in twenty years by declaring, “This is PiL,” pronouncing it “pill” and even spelling it out. Then, one song later, atop an uptempo Middle Eastern reggae beat, he declares “I am John, and I was born in London! / I am no vulture, this is my culture!” Obviously, the hiatus has him worrying that people may have forgotten him although he has long been to punk what Jerry West is to the NBA logo. Whatever. The insecurity has inspired him and his latest cohorts to record music as aggressive and skeletal an any bearing the PiL imprint since Album if not Metal Box. Drums, bass, guitar noise, misanthropy, and whatever the ridiculously catchy “Lollipop Opera” is rule. And then some.
Illinois Entertainer 2012: R
Illinois Entertainer 2012: R