Mannequin Pussy – Patience

Mannequin Pussy’s 2016 release, Romantic, defined their place as a force to be reckoned with in the field of unapologetic punk rock. The Philadelphia based group has always been a sonic powerhouse; with Marisa Dabice’s authoritative vocals swimming in a sea of hard-hitting guitar and bass riffs played by Thanasi Paul and Colin Regisford, reinforced by Kaleen Reading’s positively relentless drum lines.  Romantic was a collection of short and punchy tracks full of distorted guitar and bass, washy crash cymbals, and guttural, rage-filled vocal howls. The band has always teetered on the line between controlled chaos and just plain mayhem. Still, while Romantic let us know that Mannequin Pussy means business, it’s their most recent release, Patience, that’s going to change the game. 

Patience incorporates more elements of indie rock and pop music than the band had dared to explore previously, all while adhering to a traditional song structure. This begets a familiarity that gives their work a level of vulnerability it’s never had before; especially in Marisa Dabice’s contributions. Dabice goes back and forth between authoritative screams and tender soprano vocals. For the first time, it feels like she’s really letting you in on what’s upsetting her. The album also boasts cleaner production than the group has explored in their earlier work; a perfect compliment to Dabice’s new vocal style. Patience was mostly produced by fellow Philadelphian Will Yip, whose distinct sound you might recognize from records by bands like Title Fight, Tiger’s Jaw, and Code Orange. Yip’s sound is characterized by tightness; everything falls into its own spot in the mix. The guitar sound is more alt-rock than shoegaze, the drums sound close mic’d, and the vocals are exceptionally pure. Mannequin Pussy benefited greatly from Yip’s immaculate production style; the guitar parts don’t get lost in a haze of blown out distortion, the lyrics are clearly intelligible, and the album as a whole sounds refined and mature; while still maintaining the group’s characteristic raucousness. 

In 10 tracks spanning 25 minutes, Patience tells a story of falling into an abusive relationship, coming to terms with anger and hurt, leaving the toxicity behind, and finding healthy and fulfilling love again. Lead single “Drunk II” feels like the thesis statement of the record, meeting the balance between high-energy punk rock and the indie-esque sensitivity that differentiates this release from the rest of Mannequin Pussy’s discography. While ripping guitar riffs lay down the track’s foundation, Dabice gently floats above them with a softly sung chorus: “Everyone says to me / Missy, you’re so strong / but what if I don’t wanna be?” The lyrical content of this song, and the rest of the album that follows, seems to provide a counterpoint to the overwhelming strength that the band presented us with on their previous two releases. Patience quickly reveals itself as a declaration that beneath toughness and grit, there often lies trembling fragility.  

The group delves further into this fragility on “Fear/+/Desire,” a gentle, 90s alt-rock reminiscent track that illustrates abuse and toxicity through lyrics that are so unflinchingly honest they are almost hard to listen to. The vocals sit cleanly atop a backbone of distorted guitar and steady drums that, while adding intensity, don’t demand as much attention as they do on some of the album’s other tracks. Instead, our focus is directed to Dabice, who exudes quiet rage and strength as she sings “Is this what you wanted? / Holding me down makes you feel desired”. This narrative continues seamlessly as the album progresses. On “F.U.C.A.W.,” Mannequin Pussy briefly return to the defiant angry fuzz of their previous album. Here, the band delivers a triumphant “fuck you” to the subject of the album’s angst, while the guitar drives home a simple and powerful riff atop a raucous and resolute drum line as Dabice screams, “What did you say to me, boy? / Come on and spit it in my face / Who the fuck you talking to, boy? / Come on and spit it”. “F.U.C.A.W.” is the forceful moment Patience makes you desperately crave; the moment where the narrator reclaims her power. 

Patience presents itself as the platonic ideal form of a Mannequin Pussy album. It’s badass yet sensitive; it’s fuzzy and energetic, but it’s clean and restrained when it needs to be. It tells a story that grabs the listener’s heartstrings and yanks hard, while at the same time never being too heavy handed with the narrative. The tracks are satisfying to listen to both individually and as part of a cohesive story. One could complain that the record is too short, but no track feels out of place or gratuitous, and its brevity could be doing Patience a service. Above all, when you listen to this record, you can hear the painstaking effort and attention to detail that went into it. After laboring over it for at least three years, Mannequin Pussy has created something that will undoubtedly catapult them into a new level of musicianship and recognition. 

Pros:

  • The album as a whole is refined and cohesive 
  • Newfound vulnerability and traditional song structure help every track tell a compelling story
  • Production choices lend themselves to the album’s narrative

Cons:

  • There could be more of it

Listen here (and purchase if you can, all proceeds from Bandcamp sales are matched by Epitaph Records to benefit The Trevor Project).

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