Philly cult force return...

“I’m in control,” Marisa ‘Missy’ Dabrise sings at the outset of Mannequin Pussy’s latest record. If it sounds like bravado, a fuck-off kiss to all the Twitter bros who still think they’re a made-up band name from a TV show, reality soon sinks in with the following line: “That’s what I tell myself when all the walls around me close in.” Like the rest of us, Missy’s bold statements often arrive as much as anxious pep talks as declarations of intent.

Not that Mannequin Pussy don’t have plenty to be confident about. Their last album, 2019’s ‘Patience’, brought with it new legions of fans who felt every moment of pent-up punk fury (‘F.U.C.A.W.’) and vodka-slurred heartache (‘Drunk II’) as their own. Clocking in at less than quarter of an hour, the ‘Perfect’ EP is another jukebox roll through the band’s quieter and louder moments, both of which are largely on target from start to finish.

While ‘To Lose You’ sounds most like the emotional crossover hit this time out, the band’s more straight-up punk moments are also the source of some of their best work yet. ‘Perfect’ is an electrifying 83-second tribute to the desire, amplified during lockdown, to look Instagram-fresh for a world of strangers (“Tell me I’m beauty, tell me I’m fit, laugh at my face, spit on my tits”), and inevitably one for the mosh pit when touring returns. ‘Pigs Is Pigs’ is the moment that really captures everything that’s great about Mannequin Pussy at full throttle though, an explosive rebuke to institutional racism delivered by bassist Colins ‘Bear’ Regisford in no uncertain terms: “And it’s fucked / George couldn’t breathe / Yeah this is fucked / Breonna needed sleep.”

As a whistle-stop EP, ‘Perfect’ is unlikely to convert new fans. There’s nothing that quite reaches the heights of the band’s best song to date, ‘In Love Again’, though there are moments when Will Yip’s production, Kaleen Reading’s powerhouse drumming, and Missy’s yearning falsetto combine to arrive at something close to that level of punk-rock ecstasy. ‘Darling’ is a shimmering ballad of the kind they’ve never created before, and deserves to soundtrack every rain-drenched heartbreak scene in television for the next decade.

Then again, the Philly trio may always be something of a cult force, a ride-or-die band for a generation as desperate to get fucked up and ruin their mascara as they are to escape that cycle. As one Twitter user aptly pointed out, Mannequin Pussy have no casual fans; if you’ve already heard ‘Patience’ and haven’t booked that tattoo of a globe on fire yet, I can only congratulate you on navigating your lawful-good existence with grace and poise. You’re in control. I still wouldn’t trade.

8/10

Words: Matthew Neale

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