Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, may be most well-known internationally for producing the musical comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, and for housing Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop. Lily West, Gussie Larkin, and Abe Hollingsworth, known collectively as the post-punk band Mermaidens, call Wellington home, too, and their determination, work ethic, and colorful vintage clothes have helped them to stand out amid the city’s vibrant culture. They owe a lot to the city and its greenery, which inspired their debut album Undergrowth. On their new album, Perfect Body, they turned their attention to the sun and how its warmth washes over one’s skin and creates positive energy. Larkin says while writing the album, she and West had been “thinking and talking about pleasure and pressure” and “the contrast of being in a blissful state, but with an underlying anxiety or uncertainty being present, too.”
The album captures this duality on the title track, which opens with the line “Your perfect body won’t save you now,” and again on second track “Sunstone,” when they sing “Don’t let me overwhelm you.” The band declares an admiration for Sleater-Kinney and Warpaint, and that influence can be heard on “Mind Slow” and “Give It Up,” where the guitars have a more fluid pop-inflected flavor, and fold nicely around the vocals. “Sunstone” and “Satsuma” are both a little grittier, and are driven by pummeling bass rhythms that give the lyrics a more sinister quality. On “Satsuma” they sing, “You were sweet like satsuma, when I peeled you off and split you in two,” before repeating the line “Don’t live in bad dreams, think about the good things.” Both songs highlight the band’s willingness to bring depth and dissonance into their music.
Perfect Body is also a significant release for the iconic Flying Nun label. In 2017, after a run of excellent albums from The Courtneys, Fazerdaze, and now Mermaidens, the label seems to have finally found its groove. While the label’s roster lacked female artists in the past, women are now dictating the way forward.