Sep 09, 2010 Web Exclusive
Music as intensely intimate and cathartic as Perfume Genius' begs for close inspection, as quirks that stave off solipsism tend to reveal themselves over repeated spins. Unfortunately, on Learning—the bedroom-recorded debut from Mike Hadreas—further listening amplifies a lack of songwriting prowess to support the emotional trauma that makes up the heart of the album. Although Hadreas certainly has a knack for detailed lyrical couplets, he's woefully unable to shape interesting ideas into consistently compelling songs, cutting off his ability to engage as deeply as some of his more advanced peers.
Several moments of heart-shattering, fragile beauty abound here, but too much slips into same-y monotony, robbing the tunes' emotions of their innate power. On "Mr. Peterson," the album's lead single and stand-out cut, Hadreas grieves the passing of a suicidal, pedophiliac high school teacher with a warble-y piano and a tender whisper that belies the discomfort found in the song's story. Elsewhere, however, details that inhabit much of Learning's tracks feel like rough sketches or diary entry non-sequiturs without the musical or melodic skills to give them weight. Ultimately, Hadreas's quavering, brittle sadness comes across more as navel-gazing wound-licking, instead of the consoling melancholia it aims for.
While it's clear that Learning has a lot to say, it sorely lacks variety of structure, arrangement, and melody, leaving the record with a bit of a stale aftertaste and merely the promise of something greater in Perfume Genius' future. (www.myspace.com/kewlmagik)
Author rating: 5/10
Average reader rating: 9/10