8.5

Perfect Pussy: Say Yes To Love

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Perfect Pussy: Say Yes To Love

What’s in a name? If you’re Perfect Pussy, there’s a lot. The Syracuse hardcore band started gathering its members at the top of 2012, right around the time that Pussy Riot rose to international eye level. The Russian punk-rock collective wasn’t the first band ever to use Pussy in its name, but it was the biggest, maybe ever, to thrust the reclamation of that negatively connoted, gendered word right into the face of the mainstream. Perfect Pussy isn’t anywhere near as political as Pussy Riot, nor is it trying to be. But if you slap the “P-word” on your band name nowadays, you’re either trying to make your parents really uncomfortable or, if you’re down with feminism, you’re aiming to make a statement through re-appropriation.

Frontwoman Meredith Graves opts for the latter with Perfect Pussy. She has claimed that the name is intended as both a body-positive reminder and as a subversion to the word’s usage in popular vernacular to define something undesirably soft and feminine. Graves and her bandmates—bassist Greg Ambler, guitarist Ray McAndrew, drummer Garrett Koloski and engineer/producer Shaun Sutkus—offer their rewrite of that meaning with their ferocious debut album, a 23-minute rush of guitar scrawls and noisy tangles out of which the full-frontal lyrics barely manage to escape.

The eight-song release is a runaway train, screaming down the tracks but controlled enough that it never runs off the rails. Graves has got a pretty scream that’s more melodic than most, a credit to her background in opera and jazz vocal performance. But it’s intentionally buried in the mix, making her less of a lead singer and more of a blended part of the band. Say Yes comes at you in bursts of assault, all fits and starts and high and low extremes. Extended outros that bleed from one song to the next offer moments of repose, like the heartbeat wub at the end of “Bells” and the distant, warped wiggles of guitar notes that take you from “Big Stars” to “Work.” These segments give your ears just enough recovery time before Perfect Pussy is on to the next one.

The album title, Say Yes To Love, sounds like an item on a New Year’s resolution list, and the record is filled with other to-dos and self-realizations, like “I must let love be love in me” on “Bells” and “I have limitations when it comes to my desiring” on “Advance Upon The Real.” If you get hold of a lyrics sheet—and you should if you want to stand a chance in deciphering Graves’s yelps—you’ll find the singer is an open book. She’s 26 and still trying to figure out what to take away from relationships and experiences past, while the rest of her friends are pairing off in “a thousand little ceremonies.” “When did we all decide to give up?/Since when do we say yes to love?” she screams on album standout “Interference Fits,” which will strike a chord with any wedding cynic.

There’s a lot of barefaced emotion on this album, but Graves is no bleeding heart. “I know nothing lasts forever/I know that hurt can go on and on,” she says on “Driver.” That’s about as close as she gets to being forlorn, and then she follows it with, ”’Cause I eat stress and I shit blood/And buddy, I’ll tell you, it never gets better.” There’s nothing undesirably soft about the feminine voice of Perfect Pussy.