No Shape is an American rock ’n’ roll album by big American pop star Perfume Genius.
Known early as a poster-wraith for notorious, joyous, tortured and free boys, girls and their fellow travelers, the first two albums by Perfume Genius consisted largely of exquisite and cruelly abbreviated songs seemingly sung in the dark at a piano with all the silences left in. The previously most recent album, 2014’s Too Bright, stepped out saucily onto a bigger stage, expressing, with the production help of Adrian Utley, emotions arranged all along the slippery continuum from rage to irony to love. Now here we have seized the vocabulary of the full expression of all music.
Here in No Shape’s 13 ferocious and sophisticated tracks, Mike Hadreas and his collaborators blow through church music, makeout music, an array of the gothier radio popular formats, rhythm and blues, art pop, krautrock, queer soul, the RCA Studio B sound, and then also collect some of the sounds that only exist inside Freddy Krueger. Tremolo on the electric keys. Nightclubbing. Daywalking. Peter Greenawaying, Springsteening, Syreetaing.
Luridness was a quality of music in the 1960s that is mostly since shunned. The big male crooners were all fiercely lurid as an expression of passion or lustiness or general dickability. That’s something perfect to take back. You took us to church and told us to believe in ghosts. You took us to school and told us to believe in the great American project of inclusion. Instead we started f*cking to the great American project of rock ’n’ roll. There’s more than one sexy soul song here. Seduction is also spellcraft. Rock ’n’ roll was an incantation, a beg to give it up baby. It’s not that different from begging Some Thing to not let you die when you are alone and afraid.
Blake Mills — the one who produced the Alabama Shakes record and who performs with John Legend — produced the record with precision and expansion. Some things are pretty and some are blasted beyond recognition. In the studio with Shawn the engineer, Mike and Blake would hear quite different voices as they worked and they built this together.
God is all around actually and some of these songs are about being equal and some are about the witchcraft of believing. This is church music the same way Prince’s Black Album is — too dirty. It’s femme art pop the way Kate Bush’s The Dreaming is — too scary. Prayer is indistinguishable from OCD but feels a lot cleaner.
“I felt like when I made these other albums, people were like why are you talking about these things, and now people are going to be like, why aren’t you talking about these things, because everything’s so terrible. I’m never not talking about it. My life is existing in the f*cking face of it. My music will always be in protest.”
“I pay my rent. I’m approaching health. The things that are bothering me personally now are less clear, are more confusing. I don’t think I really figured them out with these songs. There’s something freeing about how I don’t have it figured out. Unpacking little morsels, magnifying my discomfort, wading through buried harm, laughing at or digging in to the embarrassing drama of it all. I may never come out the other side but it’s invigorating to try and hopefully, ultimately helpful. I think a lot of them are about trying to be happy in the face of whatever bullsh*t I created for myself or how horrible everything and everyone is.”
“I can steal from people that are on the inside and act as if. I created my whole identity around never being on the inside.”
Who gets to live now? That’s a question up for active international debate. Lots of folks are getting a clear view into what they all think of us. When we can, we should not have to care. You should feel great listening here, even when you’re sad. Our job is to find love and connection and goodness. Records like this, records that make you feel like you’re 15 and just seeing the truth for the first time, are excessively rare. They’re here to remind you that you’re divine. – Choire Sicha