On the Midnight Hour (Album Review)
Listeners will have approximately ten seconds into Perennial’s At the midnight hour, the return of the guitar swirling defiantly and menacingly, before the Connecticut-based art punks dropped the tunes, pulled the rip cord and went throat-chopping. “I’m going to take you to the dance of the skeletons”, shouts one of the two singers of the trio, Chelsey Hahn, at the opening of the album. “Can you say 3, 4, 5, 6 / Yeah, it’s alright, it’s alright!” The song, every 70 seconds, is a total blast explicitly cut for the moist mosh pit heaves, a thrilling tightrope walk on the edge of the blade. It ends, illustrating the band’s mysterious blending of colors, with a Romero-style 30-second organ coda.
The record, whose 12 songs barely exceed the 22-minute mark, is brilliant, with each member of the trio delivering hyper-pressurized sounds and jaw-dropping fluorescence that set them apart from the crowd. The band appear here on their second album and their first appearance during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they look like a well-oiled – and angry – little machine. Here’s your thesis: perennials are surprisingly relevant, doing something a lot of punks don’t hear, blurring all sorts of influences and genres, but still making music that’s electrically born, bombastic and assertive. the life. In short, At the midnight hour is the first major punk LP of 2022.
The highlights of the recordings are hard to break down because there are so many of them. First, turn to “Perennial in a Haunted House”, a vicious little tear of a tune where singers Hahn and Chad Jewett alternately roar, “Yeah, yeah, yeah / Gimme gimme that heart-attack.” Or so they might say; it’s wonderfully hard to tell behind this wall of barking guitars. “Hour of the Wolf”, a murderous barnburner, sounds like what would happen if the B-52s played a hardcore version of “Rock Lobster.” Between two spirited vocal takes, Jewett offers these deliciously tiny little good words. The guitar on the hooked chorus is so springy and flowing that parts of the song sound like a 1960s surf or trash outfit.
“Soliloquy for Neil Perry” delivers a guitar that adjusts and shimmers angularly with an understated pulse from Farfisa before the band launches into another powerful, anthemic chorus. “Tooth Plus Claw” punctuates its grating guitar attack with lines from TS Eliot’s “The Waste Land” – you’ll never hear “This is how the world ends, not with a bang but a groan” quite the same way again. “Melody for a New Cornet” flirts with the basses of post-hardcore and noise-rock. The closure “Absolver” will launch listeners out of the gravitational pull of the planet.
Calms? In less than half an hour, difficult to spot them. “Hello Eurydice”, an Ennio Morricone-style synth jazz track, is a bit of a placeholder, but a necessary one. At the end of certain pieces, like the excellent opening “The Skeleton Dance”, the band delivers low-thumb sequences that sound as neurotic as they are out of place amidst all the din and spiel. And that’s about the only reprieve you’ll find. The record, on the contrary, is defined by moments like those of “Food for Hornets”, where Hahn breathlessly intones “Cut out the pattern, yeah, cut out the pattern” over and over until the roof collapses. It’s an exhilarating moment on a record full of them.
Hahn and Jewett are the undisputed stars of the LP (and more), but kudos should also go to drummer Wil Mulhern, who manages to keep time through all the insane stops and starts, and anchor the band’s cataclysmic conceits. When called upon to flash, however, Mulhern does just that, delivering propelling cymbal smashes, for example, at the close of “Tooth Plus Claw,” a song that reminds you that, for all experimental or avant- thinkers, these guys are here to rawk.
Perennials are still making a name for themselves in underground circles, playing the basement shows and building a foundation, but At the midnight hour is one hell of a business card. It’s not a perfect record, but it’s not trying to be one. Instead, it’s what you dial into your car stereo when looking to navigate with the windows down and scare your fellow drivers into a little submission. Now go online and call it and give those guys your heart attacks and your downloads: you won’t regret it.