Perennial – ‘Art History’

By Katherine Allvey

Bands who claim to be high art or channel the greatness of the finest visual artists tend to be viewed with trepidation. Lady Gaga did it with class, Bob Dylan won a Nobel prize for literature, but when a band claims to be trying to turn Pop Art into music? You find yourself subconsciously grimacing at that publicised goal. 

The good news is that New England’s Perennial seem to have oversold their inspiration in the best possible way. Third album ‘Art History’ is as bright and spiky as a Warhol collage, but that’s thankfully where the similarity ends. Instead, think the organised noise of Art Brut meets a bunch of sixties garage ferocity, crammed in ninety second snapshots, and you’re on the right path. Perennial absolutely want to channel avant-garde imagery in their coordinated stage outfits and grainy, hand-shot videos, aiming to capture the imagination of the high minded who still like a good mosh, but what has emerged isn’t a staid album to be pondered over like an Old Master in a gallery you can’t afford to visit. It’s vibrant, strange and very interesting, and will probably be the album with the most electric organ that you pick up this year.

“Taste that honey, your mouth full of bees!” Electric organist and vocalist Chelsea Hahn’s lyrics are a joy throughout the roughly twenty minute long LP. “Meet the Wolfman at the Sock Hop,” she screams on ‘Perennial Meet The Wolfman’, and there’s a whimsical joy in quite how their stream of consciousness translates into catchiness. The enthusiasm behind the chorus on first single ‘Action Painting’ (“Come on, baby! Do the Action Painting!”) is like a pep talk that takes a turn into an incitement to violence, the permanent organ strains in the background peering over the walls of sanity. 

The very short song lengths seem only to add to the feeling that this album’s a runaway train about to veer off the musical tracks at any moment. If your attention drifts from the music for more than a few seconds, suddenly three songs have roared past you and everything has become an immersive, art-rock blur. Opener ‘Art History’ is only a minute long and melts seamlessly into ‘Tambourine On Snare’, with it’s yelped chorus, choppy guitar edges and barrage of rhythm. ‘Jet Set Mono’, again under two minutes, throws a fuzzy, The Hives style guitar line out the window and lets it dissolve into feedback and dramatic pauses.

As you’d expect, there’s a couple of instrumentals hurled into the track list which are possibly the weakest tracks on the album but considering how intense the rest of the songs are, they come as a relief, a brief pause in the unravelling insanity that Perennial present to us. The band’s live sets are reportedly only twenty minutes long, which must be because a pace like they display on ‘Art History’ is impossible to sustain without injuring at least one person in the crowd or themselves.

Perennial are making music that’s very different to the vast majority of bands that flirt with the ‘artistic’ tag in the post-punk scene. That’s a compliment, by the way; to try to create music that cuts its own track through the prairies of the modern punk scene is admirable, and we need more bands willing to wield that metaphorical machete to avoid stagnation. This is an album chock-full of earworms and eccentric, electric hooks that begs more exploration, the sort of record that someone cooler than you recommends and you give it a chance to impress them.

Rather than wait for that someone to thrust a copy of the vinyl into your hand, this is your chance to be that person that gets addicted to Perennial’s quirky retro-future punk take on the world and spreads the word, an inevitable consequence of listening to ‘Art History’.

KATE ALLVEY

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