Mannequin Pussy - Gypsy Pervert

Can you spare 18 minutes? It will take longer to read this review than it will to listen to this savage-sweet punk/shoe/noise LP.

Additional Info

8.8

ALBUM: Gypsy Pervert

ARTIST: Mannequin Pussy

2014

Alternative

“Sneaky Nips.” “Clue Juice.” “Clit Eastwood.” “Meat Slave 2.” “Meat Slave 3.” “Piss Drinker.” Even from a distance, Mannequin Pussy’s Gypsy Pervert gives its listeners a chance to opt out. With its preponderance of PG-13 (“crude sexual humor”) track titles, Mannequin Pussy invites its listeners to revel in its brand of degeneracy or GTFO their way. In just eighteen minutes, Gypsy Pervert ejects ten songs in a melee of punk-infused shoegaze and noise rock. Once the album begins, there’s no stopping it. The same can be said for individual tracks, which rarely offer second glimpses—one verse, one chorus, a bridge if you’re lucky, and onto the next. In that way, Gypsy Pervert’s tracks tow the line between incomplete noise rock singles and prog-rock sketches.

The veneer juvenilia is overstated; many, though not all, of these songs transcend the prurience, revealing complicated psychosexual power dynamics. Here is an album montage of Mannequin Pussy’s aggressive courtship tact:

“Sneaky Nips” – Dabice’s sexualized breathing exercises synchronized with torrential guitar | “My Baby – Axe Nice” – Dabice’s sweet-sadistic pride in her baby | “Clue Juice” - “If that’s the way you want it / well, then that’s the way it is!” | “Terror No” – “You could have me / any way you want / any time you need. / I’d be so nice. / But you’re always / biting your tongue.” synched with left-handed palm mute | “Meat Slave 2” - “When you’re near him, do you think it’s the last time? Come on over for the last time” sounding like Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield.

It all builds up to the most lyrically demanding song, “Piss Drinker,” which is riddled with implicit and explicit imperatives. Dabice coquettishly addresses the second person, telling him: “I liked it better when your hair was longer. / You were such a babe.” With mild disappointment already on the table, foreplay ensues (“your eyes on my mouth”), and by the end of the track, Dabice is feverish: “Tell me what you want from me! / Tell me what you need from me!”

Throughout Gypsy Pervert, Dabice seems similarly agitated as the three-piece MP fluctuates its rhythm and key, often unannounced. A delve into a shoegaze chorus after working up a punk verse sweat turns Dabice into a dissonant zombie. While she may crave stability, though, her volatility agrees with her. It is the adhesive that makes Mannequin Pussy cohere.

Because of their similar names, Mannequin Pussy will inevitably be likened to Perfect Pussy. Double-entendre conversations will ensue with all due hilarity: “Which would you rather have, a mannequin pussy or perfect pussy?” Beyond the veil, though, these bands convey the best of noise rock and hardcore punk, and while some may say that the difference is that Gypsy Pervert relents whereas Perfect Pussy’s Say Yes to Love is an uncompromising atonal onslaught, I think the latter is a fault that Marisa Dabice exploits in GP. Her charisma as a frontwoman lends balance to the release, a balance that Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves doesn’t seem interested in exploring. This doesn’t diminish the frenetic quality that underpins each of Gypsy Pervert’s eighteen minutes. In the case of hardcore instrumental track, “Meat Slave 3,” I’d argue that the frenzy overpins.

There are moments in most of these songs that are shrouded in the din of lo-fi demo, but MP always manages to emerge gracefully, forging compositional contrasts that dovetail Gypsy Pervert’s most rugged elements with its most refined. Perfectly positioned as the centerpiece of the album, “Someone Like You,” in particular, marries My Bloody Valentine’s shoegaze and Japandroids noise rock in a way that steals the show.

Because on the surface, Mannequin Pussy doesn’t take itself too seriously—a tact that has worked in the past for King Tuff’s Kyle Thomas and Kurt Vile who shares MP’s scene in Philadelphia—Mannequin Pussy is the ideal representative of Philly’s burgeoning booming punk scene. Gypsy Pervert is secretly eclectic and not-so-secretly fleet in its dissemination of the best punk record (so far) of 2014.

"I liked it better when your hair was longer."

1. Sneaky Nips
One minute, forty-four seconds. A rapid snare pattern with 4/4 bass drums forges the way for a maniacal D-string riff weeviling into the pulp of this song. It’s a familiar punk move—see The Clash and Black Lips—a guitar-cum-ambulance siren signaling the album is clearing a path. The riff gives way to drop-tuned breakneck hardcore, flipping the script with Marisa Dabice’s wrathful vox and staccato breathing exercises. The eight-note guitar spirals toward certain incineration. It sounds as if it could soundtrack a level in the Twisted Metal video game series. Imagine a demolition derby, ballistic projectiles strapped to shit cars, and “Sneaky Nips” on repeat on Road Rage Radio. An atonal shred cues peak flammability, and the song shuts down with a few laser pew-pew-pews.9.0
2. My Baby – Axe Nice
Fifty-nine seconds. A more traditional punk song clocking in at under a minute, “My Baby — Axe Nice” is pep-rally punk á la The Queers (see “No Tit”). Following “Sneaky Nips,” it’s noticeably toned down, but still ill-behaved. The song is mimetic, “acting” nice without being nice—in fact, axing nice. “Axe” transforms the innocuous mispronunciation (“ax” for “ask”) into sinister wordplay. The code switch earns Mannequin Pussy dubious street credit, but the entendre makes the saccharine melody and praise for the “my baby” figure seem sadistic, apropos Gypsy Pervert. It is possibly the only instance of true lyrical bliss on GP, a rare instance of Dabice finding satisfaction with her partner’s modus operandi.8.6
3. Clue Juice
One minute, nineteen seconds. “Clue Juice,” a reference to the South Park Hardly Boys episode in which two homoerotic detectives get “raging clues” and shoot “clue juice” when they’ve nearly solved a crime, reinforces this band’s proud degeneracy, which Mannequin Pussy wears like a badge. Beyond juvenilia, though, “Clue Juice” is a stellar grungy single, calling to mind Nirvana (a post-mulatto, albino, mosquito, libido homage). Originally appearing on Reeks of Effort Records’ compilation, Leisure Rules, with Dabice’s vocals higher-pitched, this LP version is more refined. Yes, “Clue Juice” from Mannequin Pussy’s Gypsy Pervert—refined, relatively. It returns to the crass hardcore tones of “Sneaky Nips,” simple and accelerated like early Agnostic Front. Featuring the most addictive chorus of Gypsy Pervert, “if that’s the way you want it, well then that’s the way it is,” Dabice sounds like a hostile genie granting a careful-what-you-wish-for wish to a soon-to-be ex.9.6
4. Clit Eastwood
One minute, fifty-five seconds. The title is better than the song. With forty-five seconds of plodding low bent notes, this is where Dabice’s vocal range is first tested. She sounds ambivalent, like a flailing Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond over the course of the scant vocals herein. With some unique time signatures, “Clit Eastwood” allows Mannequin Pussy to slow down, to perforate Gypsy Pervert and generate some necessary ambiance before delving into the best song on the album.6.4
5. Someone Like You
Two minutes, nine seconds. “Someone Like You” is Gypsy Pervert at its most sincere. Like the opening track from My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, “Someone Like You” is exquisite shoegaze but with Japandroids penchant for noise rock. Dabice’s voice is anthemic as chords toll in the soundscape surrounding her. Guitars climbs to the top of the fret board, and drums smolder to close.9.8
6. Terror No
One minute, twenty-five seconds. A distorted left-handed palm mute strum pattern clinks while Dabice transforms into a punk banshee. With a lisping or slobbery lilt, she sings, “You can have me / any way you want / any time you need /I’d be so nice / but you’re always / biting your tongue / biting your tongue!” The rare instance of vulnerability passes as ample cymbal crashes over the plinky chops. Dabice’s manic “La-la-la-la-la” progresses from petty vindictiveness to the titular terror.8.7
7. Meat Slave 2
Three minutes, twenty-eight seconds. Mannequin Pussy restrains itself as the toms’ slow tumble sets a loping gait. Tied guitar notes accompany, become arpeggios, and Dabice emerges with a folksy abandon like Waxahatchee singer Katie Crutchfield. A sludgy chorus features a guitar zipping through its core, and Dabice resumes her MBV tenor—a zombie provoked, contrasting with her languorous verse melodies. Post-chorus, Mannequin Pussy is in a slightly different key, dabbling with a guitar played like a hammered dulcimer.7.8
8. Meat Slave 3
Forty-one seconds. With instrumental aggression at a BPM count thrice that of “Meat Slave 2,” “Meat Slave 3” exhibits Mannequin Pussy’s hardcore chops. In less than a minute, the drop-tuned guitar transitions from fast to faster, back to fast before fastest, its breakneck sludge accompanied by crudely recorded snare, an analog bludgeoning. On its own, the song impresses, but within the context of Gypsy Pervert, it serves to swiftly bridge the two modes Mannequin Pussy has perfected, punked out shoegaze and punked out noise rock. Tracks seven and eight, however, do beg the question: “What about ‘Meat Slave 1?’” My guess is that “Meat Slave 3” is the sound of the hypothetical “Meat Slave 1” being consumed and metabolized.8.0
9. Sheet City
One minute, thirty-two seconds. The first twenty-six seconds is Mannequin Pussy perfection, a two-part setup with (1-2-3-4 hi-hat) pretty arpeggio draped over a snare-driven beat, both working with the same suspended rhythm followed by (another 1-2-3-4 hi-hat and) classic punk power chord hops, shattering the veneer established in the first fifteen seconds. Dabice switches seamlessly from Courtney Love’s abrasive timbre in singsong to dream pop á la Chromatics, a spontaneous maturation signaled by a change in time signature and tone. It proves to be a juke, though, as an ear-piercing scream (two reverbed syllables) returns the listener to punk singsong before a shutdown. “Sheet City” is another song that, because of its brevity feels like a sketch on the surface, but due to its execution, actually sounds like an extended Amazon sample of a longer song. My advice: fork over $0.99 to iTunes and play “Sheet City” on repeat three times.9.0
10. Piss Drinker
Three minutes, sixteen seconds. A grungy open-tuned riff is reflected by shimmery bent notes. The lyrics antagonize: “I liked it better when your hair was longer.” In what may possibly be Gypsy Pervert’s tenth consecutive love song (with Dabice’s hostility, it’s hard to tell the difference between romantic and vindictive, or if there even is a difference), a nostalgic Dabice narrates couch foreplay: “I feel your eyes on my mouth.” For some reason, the first nine tracks have primed me to hear that literally, lips on eyeballs. The sludge rhythm guitar explodes into upper-fret power chords as Dabice affects a faux orgasm. She plays at being coy, coquettish, but really she’s empowered as evidenced by her screaming. Ending with wrathful sass, Dabice demands from her opaque partner (a trait we’ve seen repeatedly on Gypsy Pervert, see “Terror No”): “tell me what you want from me / tell me what you need from me.” There seems to be, in addition to the potential of some seriously mixed signals, a blinding abandon preventing the distinguishability from want and need. Regardless of how obliging the partner actually is, it is clear that Dabice is every bit as demanding as the three-piece constitution that surrounds her, which is, in the case of Gypsy Pervert, a good thing.8.2
Written by Lawrence Lenhart
Lawrence Lenhart received his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona, where he was the editor-in-chief of Sonora Review. He is the recipient of two Foundation Awards, two Taube Awards, and the Laverne Harrell Clark Award in Fiction.

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