Tracing a lineage from the post-punk sensory overload of The VSS to the Swans-and-Television-enamored crawl of Slaves, Pleasure Forever may be a relatively new moniker, but this trio is actually a group of vets, Pleasure Forever being their full-length debut as such. Although the album may seem miles removed from the nihilist transgression of The VSS’s Nervous Circuits (seriously, one of the most genius recordings of the ’90s, and in this writer’s all-time Top 10) or the downward spiral of Slaves’ The Devil’s Pleasures (nearly as brilliant), it’s not entirely too removed, as Pleasure Forever wander down a similarly swamp-entrenched gutter, however overtly different in its austerity. And that austerity renders itself most formidably in the trio’s film noir cabaret palette, (pleasurably) forever alternating between tautly tense melodrama (opening dirge “Goodnight,” closing one “Opalescence”) and equally tense yet looser Gallon Drunken semi-skronk (“Meet Me in Eternity,” scattered moments of “Magus Opus”), vocalist Andrew Rothbard’s haunting piano/organ playing a prominent role at each turn, whether it be coaxing delicate melodies (the former pair) or Jerry Lee Lewis-gone-nutter rave-ups (the latter one). Fittingly, Rothbard has a mildly androgynous, but no less sensual, croon that recalls the late, great Rozz Williams (R.I.P.) or Bowie in his post-Ziggy, “Thin White Duke” days: again, Teutonic in its austerity, but far from one-dimensional. Truly, there are few records like this, Love Life’s The Rose He Lied By being the present analog, These Immortal Souls’ Get Lost (Don’t Lie) and Lydia Lunch’s Queen of Siam being the past ones, but still • few albums are this close to perfect.
Sub Pop, PO Box 20645, Seattle, WA 98102; http://www.pleasureforever.com