Mannequin Pussy: I Got Heaven (Epitaph) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Mannequin Pussy

I Got Heaven

Epitaph

Feb 29, 2024 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Over the course of their career, power and vulnerability are the two poles around which Philly punk outfit Mannequin Pussy has coalesced. Power is found in the pummeling drums, barrelling basslines, and Marisa Dabice’s roaring vocals. Vulnerability is found beneath the roars as airy melodies and emotionally stark lyrics enclace with catchy and barbed hooks. It was that combination that made their 2019 breakthrough, Patience, so rewarding. It was that combination that made their 2021 EP Perfect so anticipated. And it is once again that marriage of power and vulnerability that makes their fourth full-length album, I Got Heaven, a searing gut-punch of a record.

The opener and title track finds the band fulfilling both sides of their central equation effortlessly. Dabice delivers her vocals in a fierce snarl, with her delivery making her sound like a pacing tiger: raw, potent, and dangerous. In contrast, those snarling verses give way to a dreamy chorus, one that sees Dabice’s vocals floating above shimmering starbursts of synths. Much of the album plays with similar contrasts, either diving fully into corrosive, storming punk or drawing the band’s shimmering undercurrents to the forefront. There are moments here like “I Don’t Know You” or “Split Me Open” that stand as some of the most traditionally “pop” the band have ever made.

The roots of those shifts were present in Patience, but the addition of guitarist Maxine Steen, producer John Congleton, and a more collaborative writing process leaves the record with more daubs of dreamy polish. The band’s road-tested chemistry works wonders through much of the album, with tracks like “Softly” fading into soft confessionals before the band comes surging back to life. Simultaneously, the band rips and tears through several of the songs here, proving they can still deliver punk ragers. “OK? OK! OK? OK!” seems to have been concocted specifically to open up the pit, with Dabice and bassist Collins “Bear” Regisford trading off vocals in a whirling feverish rush. Meanwhile, “Of Her” gallops ahead at a tightly controlled clip, only for “Aching” to run wild, trading in any semblance of controlled chaos for wild abandon.

Meanwhile, the album finds Dabice hitting harder than ever as a lyricist. Her songwriting has always felt deeply personal, navigating themes of romance, abuse, and healing. I Got Heaven is no different, but Dabice seemingly comes from a more assured and secure position, all while still retaining plenty of bite and bile. Take the title track and opener, which touches on themes both sacred and profane. Dabice plays an angel with a devilish smile, laying claim to holy power and hinting at retribution for liars and abusers: “I am spiteful like a god / Seek a vengeance like the rest / For what they did to you / I will never lay to rest / It’s raw and unrelenting / It is absolute regression / It is vileness wrapped up / And disguised as happy endings.” Just after, she opens “Loud Bark” by declaring, “Not a single motherfucker who has tried to lock me up / Could get the collar round my neck.”

Yet, despite the band’s loud bark and deep bite, Mannequin Pussy is also the rare punk band that is capable of moving you to tears. Dabice’s confidence is often tempered with tenderness, and many tracks on the record find her caught up in the ecstasy of love and longing. In “I Don’t Know You,” Dabice is on the cusp of a new love, enticed by the excitement of truly knowing another person. In contrast, the band shades “Softly” in worry and uncertainty, with Dabice wondering, “What if one day I don’t want this anymore? / What if one day I don’t want you anymore? / What if one day I don’t love you anymore?” Love, as she describes it, is overwhelming and all-encompassing, full of joy but also equally terrifying. On “Split Me Open” she confesses, “I’m worried I want you / With the power / Of a thousand suns burning as one / With someone.” At its core, I Got Heaven lives within the aftermath of the pain and heartache explored on Patience, with Dabice reflecting on new modes of being and loving.

For a band that often operates in extremes, I Got Heaven perhaps signifies a more settled disposition for Mannequin Pussy, offering a synthesis of what came before and a hint of what comes after. As they have steadily drifted closer to softer tones and indie aesthetics over their career, they have also become an even tighter unit instrumentally. On their latest effort, that chemistry gave the band space to go in new directions. But for every part of I Got Heaven that feels new, what remains is just as potent. The record finds the band radiating both love and fury, at their most powerful and at their most vulnerable. (www.mannequinpussy.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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