Perfumes And Fripperies
The prospect of a new record from The Wake in 2020 is refreshing in part because of how up front the band has always been in their presentation. The Wake are a motherfucking goth rock band, straight up, no chaser. Not a darkwave band, not a post-punk band, but a goth rock band in every sense of the word. And even more refreshing, they were and remain a fair distance removed from the contemporaneous style of second wave UK goth (which I will always love, of course) that yielded so many acts. No, The Wake cleaved to a distinctly American style of goth which, while having its moment in the blacklight in the 90s (mostly in California rather than the band’s native midwest), remains largely overlooked today despite countless deathrock and second wave revivals. Coming twenty-four years since their previous record, Perfumes And Fripperies impresses right out of the gate by picking up where Nine Ways left off.
The shift from the band’s 1993 debut Masked and 1996’s Nine Ways was one from strident machine-rock with a heavy emphasis on drums towards a groovier and more hypnotic sound. Perfumes And Fripperies carries that forward, entering into a distinctly dreamy and psych-heavy style of goth, dripping with reverb and chilly atmospheres. Icy and funereal opener “Daisy” stretches open the spaces between rolling toms to put the focus on the echoing and sustained guitar and bass. Keeping things mid-tempo for almost its entire duration gives the record a clear sense of unity, and allows the subtleties of the hooks of the nodding “Rusted 20” to come to the fore. By the time the elegant and understated chorus of lead single “Hammer Hall” comes around it’s clear that The Wake aren’t taking any nostalgic shortcuts, and are working to push themselves into new territory.
That path into the dreamy and phantasmagoric also serves to give the band a clearer sense of identity, perhaps more than ever. There were certainly some Sisters-isms to be found in classic tracks like “Christine”, but The Wake’s use of keys and programming set them apart from the arpeggio-heavy UK style. More impressively and productively in the case of Perfumes And Fripperies, Troy Payne’s vocals have come into their own in the intervening years, gaining some extra character and quaver and adding oomph to weary lyrics about searching for love in hope of relief.
The countless ways in which the term “goth” has been applied to so many forms of music and fashion since The Wake initially packed it in have helped to expand and grow the culture. But a record like Perfumes And Fripperies shows off not only the strength of a classic and seriously dark iteration of goth rock, but also how much reward can be gained from pushing it just a bit further. Recommended.