In his recording career, Seattle's Mike Hadreas - stage name Perfume Genius - exhibits an incisive lyrical skill set that touches on the explicit and the interpersonal for an art more British and Oscar Wildelike than it is Pacific Northwestern.
During Tuesday's show at Union Transfer, Perfume Genius did the same, only more so, with elegance and gritty emotionalism to rival singers such as Alan Vega of Suicide, Antony, or Marc Almond.
These were brutally honest, poignant songs. His spare arrangements - as in "My Body" - were charged with sensuality and his tremulous, but tough, antiauthoritarian stance. The confrontational "Dark Parts" is a haunted track, with reverberant imagery: "He broke the elastic on your waist/ But he'll never break you, baby." Through ugly fuzz-tones and a celeste's twinkle, Perfume Genius' trembling, FX-laden voice whispered the dingy lyrics to "Queen" ("Cracked/ peeling/ riddled with disease/ Don't you know me?") without a hint of the regal, yet, somehow, with giddy ethereality. The pianissimo of "Learning" was no less silken or salacious.
That occasional celestial sway made the singer sound gentle and tender, especially on a tune such as the doo-wop synth-pop of "Fool." Yet, as in so much of his work, even when haughty - a real Lady Grinning Soul - he was a bit of an obsessive meanie. No pride in Perfume Genius' all-or-nothing devotion - and he seemed proud of it. When he asked, "Are we gonna do this thing" in the track "Thing," you really had to guess what crime he was readying his prey for.
For better or worse - not certain which - all of Perfume Genius' songs ended nearly before they started, either ruining their innate groove or leaving you wanting more.