Perfect Pussy at 7th Street Entry, 3/30/14

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Mark N. Kartarik

Perfect Pussy
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
Sunday, March 30, 2014

I wish I hated Perfect Pussy. Not because I want to join the inevitable backlash already kicking in against the most critically acclaimed punks of the moment. Ill-wishers may credit the Syracuse band's sudden rise to shock value (their perilous Google search of a name transforms some detractors into sniggering 12-year-olds and PMRC supporters simultaneously) or some duplicitous industry-engineered hype campaign. Yet the phrases of praise Perfect Pussy has instigated -- "emotional urgency," "primal force," "cathartic fury" -- while vague and effusive, seem the fruit of genuine enthusiasm. Yes, even at Rolling Stone and NPR.

No, I wish I hated Perfect Pussy because I don't love them, and their fierce, impressive fifteen-minute set at the Entry Sunday night deserved some kind of extreme response, should have stirred some stronger reaction from me than an approving nod. Nobody wants to be the kind of asshole who calls a punk show "impressive."

See also:
Slideshow: Perfect Pussy speed through 7th St. Entry

From opener "Bells" onward, each of the band's six songs was of a piece. Hoodied guitarist Ray McAndrew and sleeveless bassist Greg Ambler, their profiles angled away from the audience, locked into a streamlined hardcore attack. Garrett Koloski -- casual in gym shorts, hair in a top knot -- drove them forward, his drumming preserving an articulate precision even at top speed. Shaun Sutkus, in colorful knit cap and glasses, coaxed electronic squalls from his equipment that were often both the noisiest and hookiest sounds emerging from the din.

Photos by Mark N. Kartarik

And then there's Meredith Graves. The singer's stage presence fluctuates between intensity and spaciness, sometimes focusing the assault, sometimes floating beyond it. With her tattooed midriff bare between a classy black skirt and top, Graves' gestures were fluid both physically and semiotically -- apparently lecturing a particularly dim listener at some times, seeming to exorcise her rage via some personalized new-agey ritual at others. Phrases like "I need constant reinforcement" and "You don't know shit about me" poked through her ongoing rants, her friendly smile not undermining their ferocity but enveloping it in a self-possessed opaqueness.

See also: Perfect Pussy's Meredith Graves: I need something to aim my anxiety at right now

A live setting both gives and takes from Perfect Pussy's music -- the physical immediacy of their performance can compensate for the still-developing songwriting, but the let-'er-rip tumult also overwhelms the idiosyncratic elements taking shape on their more recent recordings. On the band's recent Captured Tracks debut, Say Yes to Love, "Interference Fits" is a change of pace, a ramshackle nod to lo-fi '90s indie. Taken at a faster clip here, its nuances were abandoned, making Graves' cry of "Since when do we say yes to love?" a less distinctive moment than it could have been.

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