“NO FAMILY is safe when I sashay,” sings Mike Hadreas, otherwise known as “Perfume Genius,” on “Queen,” the haunting first single on the new album Too Bright. The video for “Queen” is the deranged lovechild of Fellini and Waters, a bizarre escapade in which the 32-year-old Hadreas cruises an Elvis impersonator with a prosthetic leg only to jump off a rooftop. Depending on your interpretation, Hadreas either dies or metamorphoses into a cheerleader. The video for “Hood,” from 2012’s Put Your Back N 2 It, became somewhat infamous after the bearish porn star Arpad Miklos, who cradles Hadreas and brushes his hair, later died in an apparent suicide.
Too Bright, co-produced by Portishead’s Adrian Utley, has garnered critical acclaim, including from Rolling Stone, which ranked it among 2014’s best albums (“shifting from theatrical indie pop one minute to pitch-black electronic music the next”), to The New Yorker, which evoked everyone from John Keats to Rufus Wainwright in its praise. Too Bright is indeed a stroke of genius: melodic, melancholic, and totally original.
While on tour, Hadreas spoke with me by telephone from Seattle, which happens to be his home town.
Colin Carman teaches British and American literature at Colorado Mesa University.