The cover of Perfume Genius’ third album, 2014’s Too Bright, features frontman/creative ringleader Mike Hadreas clad in a shiny, sleeveless gold-and-silver top that hugs his slight frame. His hair is slicked back and he has a weirdly intent look on his face. There’s a surreal, androgynous vibe to it — like something artist Matthew Barney might conjure after listening to nothing but Ziggy Stardust for a week straight.
It’s also the perfect introduction to the music therein, which, for the uninitiated, makes Emo sound staid. Hadreas’ expressive voice still dominates the proceedings, but, unlike his previous efforts, the music supporting it this time out is often full and textured, as penetrating as the emotions that fuel it.
“Queen,” Too Bright’s centerpiece statement, is an unabashed anthem about standing up to homophobia, damn the consequences. Hadreas sings in a voice that’s both defiant and slightly vulnerable, “No family is safe/When I sashay!” The warning is followed by a rush of guitars, keyboards, drums and eerie backing vocals before settling down again. It’s the most sonically powerful track Hadreas has yet produced, and it was intentional.
“I’ve always been very resentful of the fact that something I have no control over would make people uncomfortable,” Hadreas told the Guardian when “Queen” dropped last year. “So with this song it was more of a ‘fuck you’ thing — I was hoping other people would feel uncomfortable for once, not me.”
Perfume Genius plays at Memorial Hall Sunday, March 15. Find tickets/more info here.