EDITOR’S NOTE: Heartbreaking Bravery has been experiencing some technical difficulties that are currently in the process of being resolved. All apologies for the recent lack of content, expect it to be made up for as soon as possible.
When Heartbreaking Bravery was formed, I did it with a manifest that I promised myself I’d do my best to adhere to. There have been a few occasions here and there where, for the presumed benefit of the piece, I’d subvert that initial set of rules. The subversion of a very particular set hit its apex when it became clear that, at least for a while, the band I would be tracking most closely was Perfect Pussy. I allowed myself the indulgence of using self-identifiers because I thought it was the most appropriate response to the band’s music; open, unfiltered, unflinchingly honest, earnest, enthusiastic, sincere, and devoid of pretense. That approach has (obviously) been kept but now I’m allowing myself a subversion of a different rule; this is going to be the first piece to be done exclusively on a cover song.
Before this goes any further, it’s worth pointing out that despite the headline above (and one that will undoubtedly appear in several more publications following the Rookie premiere that took place earlier today) that Perfect Pussy wasn’t the band responsible for this cover. Yes, Meredith Graves is at the center of the chaos unfurling around her, Shaun Sutkus was on board for production, mixing, and mastering duties, and Garrett Koloski provided some live drumming for this- but both Ray McAndrew and Greg Ambler were absent from this recording completely and both guitar duty and synth arrangement was handled by Friendless Bummer‘s Sam Sodomsky. It exists in the same wheelhouse as Perfect Pussy and will sound similar to anyone familiar with their work but, unless Graves has changer her mind since our brief discussion about this, it’s a one-off project with no real name; Perfect Pussy is just being used as an acceptable placeholder.
With that surprisingly large amount of exposition out of the way, let’s move onto why I’m even writing this to begin with: the cover. It’s a wide-eyed and startlingly explosive take on Bruce Springsteen’s “Candy Room”, a sorely underrated gem from Darkness on the Edge of Town. Besides being blindingly unexpected and volatile for the majority of its runtime, it boasts a lush and delicate intro piece that sees Graves reciting the lines “when I come knocking, she smiles pretty, she knows I wanna be Candy’s boy”, furthering a process of dispensing harmful gender roles in music, which hasn’t been a prominent part of the cultural landscape discussion in far too long. Less than twenty seconds in and there’s already a reminder that music, at it’s core, is a utopia where equality can be freely expressed and flourish, even readily achieved, when any background context is stripped away. While I certainly don’t think the intent of this version of “Candy’s Room” was that all-consuming, it still serves as an excellent example of that level of freedom.
After the gently intoned opening lines, the song explodes outwards, sending vicious shards of audio every which way. Again, Graves seizes the opportunity to position herself in the center, only this time instead of impassioned pleading, there’s an almost disorienting tranquility- and instead of screaming, she sings like a gentle army of the sweetest birds. Many will make the mistake of instantly assuming she’s been autotuned, as the multitracked vocals here do sound a little too perfectly arranged. In reality, Graves improvised the seven-part harmonies that adeptly define and characterize this cover- after a surgery to removed a few impacted wisdom teeth, no less. Make no mistake, though, Graves’ improbably cheerful and melodic vocal delivery contrasts with what’s happening around her as much as it possibly can; this is noise-punk at its most experimental and owes a greater debt to classic Japanese video games more than anything else. Sodomsky’s guitar work manages to be as simplistic as it is torrential (and the same can be said for his synth arrangements) while Koloski and Sutkus ably command their impressive control over what should be an insurmountable level of insanity.
In a move that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to those who heard Say Yes to Love, after the trio (which again, isn’t technically Perfect Pussy) navigates their way through the technicolor dream sequence that is the traditional bulk of their cover, they spend most of the final two minutes experimenting with manipulating feedback and decaying loops. It’s another jarring outro from a group of creatively restless and refreshingly fearless people who are intent on keeping everyone guessing as to what’s coming next. By the time everything’s been drowned out by the piercing epilogue (which features audio berthed from a pedal that operates on the basis of light-sensitivity), it can be chalked up as another impressive mark in the continuously-expanding win column for Graves, Koloski, and Sutkus while also being one hell of a profile-booster for Sodomsky.
Listen to “Candy’s Room” over at the inimitably great Rookie (which also contains an accompanying interview) and be warned: don’t leave this one on repeat. Each time it plays itself through, it gets that much harder to take off- it’s the most difficult-to-untangle web of audio hypnotics I’ve experienced in a very long time.