November 22, 2016

LP: Mannequin Pussy - Romantic

Mannequin Pussy's Romantic is a moshable mental health guidebook.

Mannequin Pussy’s Romantic distills the messiest of outsized emotions into acute, sub-minute bursts. They're the kind of emotions that make your palms and feet sweat at one in the morning, that make you feel tingly and numb and outside of yourself even as your heart beats faster and your lungs catch in your throat. Panic attacks feel like an eternity when you’re trapped inside their fragile, electric myopia. Generally they’re no longer than Romantic itself, as the record is an under-twenty minute operatic gust of sugary punk which, when taken as a whole, can feel a little like an overdose of anxious energy. 

“I am not ashamed to feel lonely,” vocalist and guitarist Marisa Dabice screams repeatedly over the vicious, menacing clatter of album-opener “Kiss,” “but I’m afraid to feel it so deeply.” The “romanticism” of the title isn’t necessarily about interpersonal love but self-love – or a lack of it. It refers to “feeling things too deeply” and having a voracious, desperate desire to take the edge off. Luckily, Dabice has been through this before and serves as the listener’s guide in solidarity. When she seethes that no one was there to tell her to “girl, breathe in” on the opening track, she implicitly reminds the audience to do the same. Moments like this serve as beacons of hope throughout the tumult of the album. On other occasions Dabice repeats a mantra of “I gotta get up” and instructs to “pledge allegiance” to ourselves “and nothing else.” This is the year’s most cacophonous, moshable mental hygiene guidebook, and it could not have come at a better time. 

The band originated with half of its current lineup; only Dabice and then-drummer Thanasi Paul appeared on 2014’s Gypsy Pervert cassette. Romantic expands on GP’s hooky confidence – now joined by drummer Kaleen Reading and bassist Colins Regisford – by allowing the new record to delve into themes that their freshman release didn’t begin to touch upon. Squalling polemics (“Ten”) segue into candy-stained flannel (“Emotional High”), while the breathless “Denial” and “Hey, Steven” combine the two, pushing both to the extreme. Each track serves as a sort of song-length appoggiatura, freely weaving from one sound to the next as the album careens towards its startling close. The final track, “Beside Yourself,” opens with a fifteen-second bright, sticky-sweet a capella harmony of “I found you beside yourself / Holding onto the past” before the commotion kicks in. This time, though, it’s optimistic; a thundering, major-key anthem to burning it all down and starting over. It feels like a necessary celebration – a cleansing by fire after the toxic feelings and insecurities that both Dabice and the listener have trudged and toiled through on the previous ten tracks. Not only does Romantic accurately capture the feelings of claustrophobia and hopelessness that come with anxiety, but also it rewards us just as sincerely with the feeling of making it back alive.

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Listen to Mannequin Pussy on bandcamp.


THIS STAFF POST WAS CONTRIBUTED BY:
Mark Lukenbill is a writer, film + radio producer, and wannabe librarian in Brooklyn, NY.