The perfect lover. For each individual those words are likely to conjure a variety images. One might dream of Burt Reynolds tastefully covered in Vaseline, wearing nothing but a Speedo and cowboy boots; another, Jamie Lee Curtis erotically knocking back single serving after single serving of Activia Yogurt. And while we may never know what those words mean to each member of St. Paul's His Mischief (the smart money's on the yogurt), The Perfect Lover encapsulates a dozen tracks that are highly unpredictable and uniquely inconsistent.
Opening with "Freaks Up Front," the band immediately takes a firm grip on a tight guitar lick. Lead singer Sheridan Fox dives in moments later, wailing like a Scandinavian Britt Daniels, slightly slurring the lyrics and tossing in "Oh! Oh! Oh!"s as necessary—it worked for "Howlin'" Pete Almquist of the Hives and it works here, too. The following songs distort any clear direction however, Fox's voice fails to rest on any clear sound, and the bassist Jeff Quinn and drummer Jeff Brown follow suit. Crossing between the overcrowded sound of "Don't Bother" to the deliberate guitar of "All That for a Limp Handshake" creates an immediate divide between the two songs, a pattern that is continued throughout. After "Towering Filth," the album's token grunge track, the band again changes directions as it does its best Ben Folds with "Roman Holiday." And though the song sounds out of place in context, the chorus to "Holiday" is a curious earworm that stands out as one of the album's highlights.
While it's not a deal-breaker, the problem that arises from having no fluidity among the album's tracks is that they tend to chop each other off at the knees. Just as it looks to build some momentum with "Veins," the song's energy disappears with the following "Trust or Love." The Perfect Lover is frustrating at times, but its songs refrain from bleeding into one bland sound, instead creating a distinct contrast with one another. It's unpredictable and inconsistent, but at no point does it fail to sound good. And that's probably what His Mischief had in mind when dreaming of the perfect lover; if you went the route of a greased-up mustache-wrangler, more power to you.