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CD of The Week

Week of 3/04/24

    Mannequin Pussy - I Got Heaven (Epitaph)

    With a never-ending news stream that seems composed of purposefully malicious gut punches, Mannequin Pussy have crafted the essential soundtrack to wrestle with those overwhelming feelings. And understandably, it is emotionally draining. With cathartic verses that viciously pivot to light, wispy choruses on a dime (and vice versa), I Got Heaven gives an artistic reaction to world problems while reminding us to strive for something noble. In the bio for the album singer Marisa Dabice positively says, “The ethos of this band has always been to bring people together.” But at the same time, “trying to make something beautiful feels like a radical act.”  On I Got Heaven, they succeed at delivering unity in the face of oppression.

    The opening track, lead single “I Got Heaven,” was released six months ago now, but gave accurate insight into what fans could expect on the full-length. Vocals drive the tempo, racing from the start with unapologetic rants about religion, longing, and regret, slowing down with a prayer-like cadence only to relax in a blissed-out shoegaze chorus. It is beautiful and gnarly; frothing and gentile all at once and boasts one of the most powerful lyrics on the album: “For what they did to you, I will never lay to rest.”  It, like the whole record, is equal parts pissed-off Amyl & the Sniffers and part dream-poppy Wednesday. “Loud Bark” flips the recipe, featuring a light, thoughtful verse that slowly grows with intensity, like an anthemic Downtown Boys rager. The internalized chorus repeats, consuming and self-berating the singer until the threat of a “loud bark” and “deep bite” is birthed into reality.

    Loud, seething repetition is key to giving the hardcore tracks their authentic, anthemic themes. The driving circle-pit punk “Of Her” fires off the word “control” over and over again as a tribute to people who make sacrifices. “Aching” continues with the same forceful energy, but in this case, it is used to demolish oppression, pounding the phrase “I’ve got to break free” into the ground. And perhaps the best track, “Ok? Ok! Ok? OK!,” features two distinct melodies jammed together like tectonic plates fusing, as a furious Colins “Bear” Regisford (bass) sings lead about a bleak future with Dabice in support blurting out the title on repeat like an alarm with Deerhoof-meets-Kathleen Hannah anxiousness.

    But to keep rage at the forefront on every track would water down the message. There are plenty of lighter, moody moments and songs to offer a daydreamy contrast. The final track, “Split Me Open” is a lofty, strummy song, pining for someone just out of reach, and spirals out of control, intensifying as the muse drifts away further. “Nothing Like” sounds like a Waxahatchee number and creates youthful obsession fantasies where nothing else matters in the world. And the art school prom dance of “I Don’t Know You” plays out like a gossipy middle school adventure over a potential crush.

    The way Mannequin Pussy slips from sedated beauty to frantic hostility with effortless ease sells this record and keeps the listener on their toes. Even the seemingly out-of-place (but really good) “Sometimes,” with its upbeat, jangly alternative groove, adds an important layer to the overall feel and flow of the empowering album. I Got Heaven calms as it infuriates and walks a fine line, as it creates a solid platform to preach from. Mannequin Pussy will be stepping up to the Union Transfer-sized soapbox for two sold-out shows on May 22nd and 23rd, with the equally radical Soul Glo.

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    Review by Shepard Ritzen

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