If there's something intimately disturbing about Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, since his begining ten years ago with "Learning" - a debut album full of minimalism, dried tears and bedroom confessions - it's the duality he uses to go from the softest violence to the most scathing caress, to wander from sad laughter to saving sobs, to make his femininity a strength and his masculinity a wound. In short, to cover his tracks like no one else.
His penultimate record, "No Shape" (2017), recorded with Blake Mills, heralded another perfume. A Perfume Genius that was more rock'n'roll, less intimate and more rebellious than the one we knew, the one which tried to get rid of his trauma (his childhood mistreated as a gay man, his complex relationship with drugs and toxic sexuality), trying to take stock of all the flaws the character didn't seem to have overcome yet. With the same producer at the controls, "Set My Heart on Fire Immediately", his fifth LP, wonderfully corrects these imperfections (maybe for an excessively clean result?) and finally imposes itself as the little pop rock gem Perfume Genius had always dreamed of, and so did we.
"Set My Heart on Fire Immediately" is an incandescent and major record in Perfume Genius' discography, which, carried by ambiguous figures of masculinity like Elvis Presley or Roy Orbinson (two of Mike's major influences), is at ease in everything it touches. From the precious torch song that is "Jason", based on an ass-in-the-bag story with no tomorrow, to "On The Floor", which concentrates all the magic of 80's pop, with sighing choruses as a bonus; from "Describe", which plunges into the bowels of grunge, to "Touch", an intimate gem that mischievously makes the link with early Perfume Genius. The whole record is that of a musician who has become a virtuoso over the years, who takes his voice from the lowest to the highest pitch, makes you cry as much as he makes you dance, mixes the intimate and the universal, or rather makes the intimate universal.
Thirteen catchy and disturbing tracks that see Mike playing with the masculine and the feminine like a degendered musical puzzle. The album cover (signed by the French photographer Camille Vivier), where Mike appears shirtless, in chromatic black and white, with the body of a boy in his forties, without photoshoped artifices, the face marked by his youthful excesses as well as the soothed reflections of his current life, is absolutely symbolic of this "Set My Heart on Fire Immediately". As if all the fragility that had made Perfume Genius so graceful had transcended itself, without denying itself, into a blend of pride and strength, physical as well as sonic, a blend that makes all the beauty, but above all, all the magic.
Thank you, Mike.