sad songs that say so much

Perfecta (Brainstorm)
Adam Again

By Robert Gruber

Perfecta is a movement in the breakdown; bleak, numb moments in the late-night limbo of a failed relationship. In this case, it's singer/ guitarist Gene Eugene's divorce from his wife, Riki Michelle (who, in an ironic knife-twist, sings backup on these songs). It is, as the song "Try Not to Try" points out, "the never-ending figure-out." Anyone who has been through a shattering relationship experience, be it divorce or whatever, will side uncomfortably with Perfecta —it is to relational failure what Lou Reed's Magic and Loss is to death.

What makes this otherwise depressing album so glorious is the music. Its 14 songs are incredibly noisy, yet balanced —skillfully slovenly, if that makes any sense. Eugene's busted amp pours crackling noise and feedback over the tight rhythms of bassist Paul Valdez and drummer Johnny Knox's slick, funky chops. Lead guitarist Greg Lawless plays fluidly, working his wah-wah pedal like a faucet. Michelle's harmonies are inventive, even Beatlesque at times.

In a timbre somewhere between Mike Stipe's and James Taylor's, Gene Eugene gives voice to weariness. "Hey, too late / It's late/ I've got to get up early/ Hey...I'm dying to get some sleep, baby/...I'd love to turn to stone tonight," he pleads in "Stone," the opening cut. In "L.C.," he appeals via song to the terminally heartsick Leonard Cohen for empathy:

I need to capture beauty,

I need another age,

I need a tragic movie,

tale of tears and rage

...hey, where you goin,' Lenny Cohen?

"Air" and "Dogjam" showcase the guitar interplay between Lawless and Eugene. "Don't Cry" ends the album on a soft note of bittersweet resignation, as Eugene and Michelle, voices intertwined, intone:

It's wide and deep

and fast asleep

and now we say good-bye,

don't cry.