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Friday, January 10, 2014

Perfect Pussy and Raleigh rules

Posted by on Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 12:26 PM

Perfect Pussy with Whatever Brains, Davidians
Kings Barcade, Raleigh
Thurs., Jan. 9, 2014


click to enlarge Perfect Pussy, Kings, Raleigh, Thursday, Jan. 9 - PHOTO BY JAKE THOMAS
  • Photo by Jake Thomas
  • Perfect Pussy, Kings, Raleigh, Thursday, Jan. 9

Last night, when Perfect Pussy singer Meredith Graves proclaimed three times from the stage that “Raleigh hardcore rules,” I had no trouble agreeing with her.

Graves’ Syracuse-based outfit has been riding a swell of buzz surrounding their fiery, self-released, four-song demo I have lost all desire for feeling. The upper echelon of music publications, from Pitchfork to Rolling Stone, all praised the band’s chaotic but appealingly hopeful take on noise-blasted hardcore. The in-vogue indie label Captured Tracks signed the band for a full-length, due later this year. And in Raleigh, on the second date of a lengthy cross-country tour, a large and enthusiastic crowd greeted the group.

The band’s affable and enthusiastic presence was refreshing and engaging. Graves introduced her band, with a grin as “The Art Ensemble of Chicago,” then “Metallica.” At set’s end she offered, “We’re Perfect Pussy—duh.” She had nothing but compliments for the local openers, Whatever Brains and Davidians. The former, she said, she’d been waiting to see for two years.

Still, despite a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for camp counselors, despite a committed performance that suggested the abandon and invective of great punk frontpersons from Darby Crash to Kathleen Hanna, Perfect Pussy’s songs were often lost inside their squall. Occasional melodies would cut through the whirlwind, but Graves’ hollers served mostly as punctuation. In the best moments, as on their demo, they manage a blustery momentum that feels like a descendant of Hüsker Dü and Sonic Youth. Between those moments, the band gets swept into amorphous distortion. But for a band with only a demo to its name, Perfect Pussy shows plenty of promise.

Then again, Raleigh hardcore rule; and the Oak City openers (neither of whom would be considered purist hardcore, but the point stands) proved difficult to follow. The new Davidians wowed in their second-ever gig. The band features ex-Double Negative bassist Justin Gray, drummer Brian Walsby and singer Cameron Craig, plus guitarist Colin Swanson-White, formerly of the Minneapolis death-rock band Safewords). Their inventive post-hardcore takes abrasive cues from The Jesus Lizard and The Birthday Party, with a turbulent pulse a bit like Honor Role’s. Gray’s melodic bass lines gave Swanson-White plenty of space to zig and zag in counterpoint. Walsby kept time with agile bursts while Craig—swapping his customary patch-covered denim for a black sportcoat and button-down and his Double Negative lunging for a more intense prowl—carried the intensity of a veteran hardcore shouter while adding moody nuance to his delivery. With Skemata, and several still-developing new bands, Davidians suggest an impending cataract of new and excellent punk bands in the area.

Whatever Brains are hardly a new band, but they never give their songs enough time to grow stale. They’ve mostly abandoned songs from their third album, released last April, in favor of new, increasingly keyboard-driven numbers (perhaps part of their promised, forthcoming “rock opera”). In their penultimate show with bassist Matt Watson, the Brains stirred a fervent pogo pit in the large, mostly young audience. Few bands’ popularity is as deserved or as baffling as Whatever Brains’. Their music is challenging, occasionally repellant, and hopelessly addictive.

They’re adept at crafting pop hooks and subverting them. The way Public Image Ltd. and their post-punk ilk replaced the Sex Pistols’ codified punk, Whatever Brains are again razing all that which came before to make room for new ideas. Their set cycled through elements of punk and post-punk, new wave, hardcore, stressed and stringy art-rock. Whatever Brains are a band loaded with contradictions—experimental but approachable, bitter but whimsical. Last night, they were also genius.

And that’s what Perfect Pussy, the new band touring behind a strong demo, had to follow. It’s almost a shame, but, then, Graves said it herself: Raleigh hardcore rules.

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