Perfect Pussy is not in the business of pandering to their audience. Since releasing their demo “I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling,” the Syracuse noise punks have earned a reputation as one of the most exciting and critically successful punk bands in recent memory.
Despite their newfound notoriety, Perfect Pussy’s proper debut, their LP “Say Yes to Love,” released on March 18, does not change much about their sound.
From the beginning of the album, front woman Meredith Graves is constantly competing with the rest of the band to have her voice heard, as she shouts over a furious blast of hardcore punk-tinged noise.
This struggle functions as a perfect metaphor for the feelings of alienation and powerlessness attributed to Graves’ history with violence and abusive relationships.
In the end, the only lyrics that manage to burst through the layer of feedback are the most tortured, frustrated and angry.
Graves yells the righteous lines in “Driver” like protest chants through a heavily distorted microphone above the cacophonous roar of the band. As the five-piece group burns through song after song, these chants hit the listener like waves, punctuated by noisy distortion and feedback-driven effects.
Different from most noise-rock albums, the few moments of clarity in “Say Yes to Love” are the ones that stand out and make the dense, often-obscure lyrics feel particularly weighty.
This phenomenon can be heard during the searing “Interference Fits,” when, in a moment of deafening silence, Graves asks, “Since when do we say yes to love?” before concluding, “It comes in and takes what it wants,” as she launches into competing, overdubbed tirades. This minute-long shouting match between Graves and herself underscores the conflicted feelings associated with saying yes to love, especially for someone like this artist, who has many reasons to be skeptical of affection.
With few exceptions — notably the trancey, synth-driven track “VII” — the songs tend to melt into each other, and the only clear separation between one fit of noise and the next is the occasional period of silence or dissonant distortion. However, the songs slowly open up as the lyrics and their intention become clearer, painting a more vivid picture with each listen.
While “Say Yes to Love” is far from a feel-good album, it is difficult to come away from it without feeling strangely uplifted. During the album’s darkest moments, Graves seems to say that although she has been through a lot, she is still here and has the ability to love.
While it is not clear if this sentiment is glass half full or empty, it is hard to think of this album as anything but a hard-fought victory.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 25 print edition. John Ambrosio is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.