There are very few names that have been as instrumental to Heartbreaking Bravery’s (admittedly limited) early success and continuing expansion as Perfect Pussy‘s Meredith Graves. Endlessly supportive and impossibly kind, she’s lent an unwavering support that’s both humbling and welcome. For this reason and this reason alone, I’m going to abandon at least one rule of the hidden manifest I’ve held Heartbreaking Bravery to up until this 110th post; the use of a first-person narrative. I’m breaking this rule specifically for this post because these words will be about Perfect Pussy’s new music video as much as they’ll be about sincerity. Sincerity, compassion, and empathy were at the heart of our last discussion and were three of the things that attracted me to the band begin with. There’s an unflinching honesty that, as evidenced by the almost immediate backlash following their success, alienated about 1 person for every 10 that it’s inspired.
In terms of sentiment, the lyrical content on I have lost all desire for feeling elevates itself past the bleeding-heart realm into a full-on self-performed open heart surgery that cuts off halfway through, laying everything bare for onlookers. It’s not kitschy, it’s fucking brave. Detractors like to speculate that it’s all just an act, grossly unaware of how little of a veil there is that separates the band from its audience. There’s a heart on display that’s beating furiously and unapologetically, allowing anyone paying attention to interpret its motions as they will. Operating without a filter and embracing as much positive energy as humanly possible, the band’s already managed to establish a reputation for themselves on the strength of a four song demo and fierce touring.
All of those early trademarks- the empathy, compassion, sincerity, (positive) energy, fearlessness, and upfront honesty come together in Lukas Hodge’s clip for I have lost all desire for feeling‘s explosive opening track, “I”. Hodge opens the video with an endearing black-and-white shot of the band, all smiles, descending a staircase and led by an umbrella-toting Graves. Before the jump cut out of the stairwell hits an abbreviated quick cut sequence, Graves shoots the audience the kind of smile that seems to say “thank you” and “I love you” all at once, to anyone that cares. It’s a brief second that feels like it’s worth a lifetime, aptly illustrating a moment of something approaching self-actualization. It’s unlikely there will be anything as intimate captured this year.
Following the contained beauty of the band’s introduction, the video ably jumps between three scenarios; the live performance footage, the band shooting firecrackers off in a beautiful wide-open field, and walking around various city locations. All of “I” is lensed with a subtly soft, warm hue that maximizes the clip’s easy naturalistic feel. Though, there aren’t moments lacking in artistic merit in the face of that naturalism. While it’s difficult to tell whether or not it actually was raining, the band (and certainly the director) were likely aware of how significant something as simple as the umbrellas has been throughout musically-inclined film projects. From Mary Poppins to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg to, more recently, How I Met Your Mother, umbrellas have acted as beloved staples (and important plot devices) in culturally resonant art. While a two minute music video is obviously going to have to deal with some limitations, “I” already feels like one of the more definitive presentations of a very specific subculture within the confines of punk.
Before the video’s explosive confetti-strewn climax, Hodge manages to articulately convey the band’s frantic passion through exposition. By splicing together the outside footage with the performance, it’s easy to grasp the band’s personality which makes the final payoff that much more exhilarating. You want the people that greet you with a warm embrace to succeed, especially when their end goal doesn’t carry any inherently negative or mean-spirited consequence. That’s a space reserved for the kind of people who embrace the lighthearted fun that’s on display throughout “I”. By the time “I” hits its relentless stride and the band’s surrounded by friends, everyone under a shower of confetti and clothed in silly string, the moment feels deserved. Driving this point home, Hodge allows his camera to linger on a small group of hands that are raised up, as if in elated prayer, and a once small-but-significant moment acts as a stand-in for a much larger one; those few enlightened hands have now turned into thousands, each of which (mine included) more than happy to attempt to push the band to even greater successes and heights.
While Graves may still be on the operating table, picking herself apart and attempting to figure out how to live the most worthwhile life possible, there are people in her corner. There are people that know Perfect Pussy are a band that’s worth believing in, not just because they’re making great music but because they’re making sincere music, the kind that directly opposes the apathy that’s descended like a darkness and all but consumed the forefront of the DIY/basement punk scene. There’s an intrinsic value to Perfect Pussy’s commitment to honesty. At a time when things as basic as desire and enthusiasm are positioned as things that can damage credibility, I’ll be on the side of the band that comes into that fold and fucking destroys the misguided preconceptions about them. Perfect Pussy are a band that kids can look to and be assured that it’s okay to be excited about art and the importance of that should not be lost.
“I” will likely always be Perfect Pussy’s best calling card, distilling the band’s indomitable passion into a blistering 120 seconds (complete with an arresting mantra that perfectly captures the band’s paradoxical marriage of aspects gentle and forceful). Somewhere, in those two glorious minutes, an entire subculture’s esoteric pretense was stripped away. Somehow, Lukas Hodge managed to create a video that managed to push the band’s ideals further while presenting an accurate portrayal of their collective identity. Someday some fifteen year old kid is going to see that video and learn a myriad of things; that it’s okay to be who you are, that art/punk/noise/hardcore/whatever-the-fuck is one of the most gratifying experiences you can possibly have, that gender should never matter in music, that youth can be retained, and that sincerity is something that should never be overvalued.
Even if Graves & co. are pinching themselves now, in the midst of a rapid ascension to the kind of levels where all of their moves will be met with scrutiny, they’re not the sort to pay attention to any of the critical responses. That’s the final key to their success; by blocking out all of the outside opinion- apart from the reactions they get from shows, people buying merch through their bandcamp, or personal messages- they’re free to cater to the things they believe in. Luckily for us, those beliefs are worth celebrating. Nearly everything that I’ve written above (in addition to the twenty or so times I watched “I” today) has led me to a realization. Perfect Pussy have officially become a personal item for me. This isn’t a band I want to push- it’s one I need to. They’re doing important things, whether they know it or not, with a high enough profile that those things may have an actual impact and cause some positive reform in increasingly stale scenes. While Heartbreaking Bravery certainly won’t be the most visible source lending their aesthetics and creative decisions vocal support, it’s still worth discussing.
For a reminder of all of this, watch “I” below and pre-order a deluxe copy of Say Yes to Love over at Captured Tracks.