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Kevin Abstract - ARIZONA BABY Music Album Reviews

The BROCKHAMPTON star’s latest solo album is an often powerful document by a queer artist who has weathered life’s bruises.
In a move inspired by Shia LaBeouf’s bemusing catalog of durational work, Kevin Abstract recently endured 10 hours on a treadmill on a suburban street of his hometown, Corpus Christi, Tex. While running, the BROCKHAMPTON singer and rapper multi-tasked: He took selfies, signed sneakers, posed with a baby, and mumbled along to the chorus of his recent single, the yearning gay love song “Baby Boy.” Abstract vaguely told one fan that the performance was to teach empathy—indeed, you could interpret it as an allegory for the upstream battle to make it out of suburbia for so many kids—but that didn’t save it from feeling like a stunt.

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Wand - Perfume EP Music Album Reviews

Wand - Perfume EP Music Album Reviews
Cory Hanson and his SoCal cohorts continue their transformation from manic garage rockers to shape-shifting innovators on an EP as eclectic as White Light/White Heat.

Last year, Wand pulled off a magic trick. For their fourth album, Plum, founder Cory Hanson disappeared the manic band responsible for three raucous LPs in two years—a creative clip familiar to some of their SoCal garage-rock associates—and summoned in its place apparitions of several different bands. Adding two permanent members, guitarist Robbie Cody and Sofia Arreguin, on keyboards and vocals, provided them with new sonic bulk and flexibility. But Plum was more remarkable for demonstrating that Wand could shape-shift in a snap of their fingers.

It seemed as though they’d benefitted from taking an extra year to design a more thoughtful work. But Hanson didn’t rest for a moment, following their Plum tour, before announcing that Wand’s next release was already in the bag. On their EP Perfume, they return to their original bustling pace without losing any of their new-found ingenuity.

The band sounds filthy and pristine in equal measure, just as it did on Plum. Again, multiple Wands show up, bearing songs varied enough to have come from several discrete seasons of writing. It’s rare to find transitions this agile on a single album, or even across the same career: Perfume resembles a retrospective compilation from an act that’s been around for 20 years—not five—and has spent significant chunks of that time workshopping different sounds. Whether gritty or pretty, each song could pass for the work of a genre specialist.

It’s Hanson’s lyrics that bind the tracks together, detailing the inebriating effects of romance. Closer “I Will Keep You Up” spins Primal Scream’s love-as-addiction ballad “Damaged” into a mutually supportive duet, with Hanson and Arreguin enumerating the small joys of spending time together: “Telling tales to pass along the things we can’t keep/From the things we can’t forget.” “Pure Romance” takes a sledgehammer to the creeping dread built up by the twitchy, skronking “Town Meeting.” “Lost in timeless pure romance,” Hanson repeats in the chorus, but Wand have never sounded less lost—or more uplifting. With its blunt power chords and spotless production, the track comes practically gift-wrapped for playlists.

But that blissful vibe can’t last. “Train Whistle,” the screeching instrumental that follows “Pure Romance,” makes for a jarring transition reminiscent of the violence with which “I Heard Her Call My Name” elbows its way into the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat, on the heels of comedown ballad “There She Comes Now.” That wildly eclectic album seems to be a reference point for the new Wand. (Perfume even has a track called “The Gift,” although instead of drowsy spoken word, it showcases fervent guitars that glimmer and swell.) A proud devotee of classic rock, Hanson has also cited the Beatles’ White Album as his “favorite record ever.” That choice may be common, but it doesn’t seem so basic in light of Plum and Perfume—two releases that confirm the enduring appeal of bands with the vision, talent, and confidence to keep transforming into something new.

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