Adam Again


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Coming after the group's masterstroke, Dig, Perfecta feels like something of a letdown, seeming at first to lack the energy and fire of its predecessor. Upon repeated listens, however, the record assumes a devastating gravity. Each slow-smoldering song is steeped in shadow as Gene Eugene's nasal whine bleats out grim assessments of a life gone wrong. Each new tale of imperfection lends the record's title a jagged, caustic edge. Perfecta follows a particularly turbulent period in Eugene's life -- his divorce from bandmate Rikki Michele -- and it's difficult not to read the songs as strict autobiography. Shucking the adroit wordplay that defined Dig, Eugene opts for raw, unvarnished confession, lashing out at charlatans ("All You Lucky People"), old lovers ("Dogjam"), and himself ("Relapse"). Particularly trenchant and moving is the album-opener, "Stone," in which Eugene nakedly admits: "When I said to leave I meant 'please stay'." He counters the sentiment four songs later with an Elvis Costello-style kissoff in "Harsh," sneering, "Now be a dear and leave me alone." Because the record volleys between such extreme emotions, it is one of the more stirring, accurate depictions of tainted love in alternative rock. To match such scorching emotion, Eugene and Greg Lawless filter their guitar through thick layers of distortion, creating huge pools of sound from loose, liquid chords. The songs on Perfecta contain little forward momentum, but their musical motionlessness only serves to amplify the feeling of numbness that inhabits the record. Perfecta is a portrait of a man who is stuck, and every unrelenting chord solidifies like cement around his feet. Eugene seems here musically influenced by one of his protégés, Starflyer 59, as the walls of feedback and sound often mimic that group's early albums. Sadly, Perfecta also served as the band's grim epitaph: Gene Eugene died in March of 2000, and his final album is a testament to both his deep sadness and his overlooked genius.

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