Music Reviews

Perfume Genius' "Set My Heart on Fire Immediately" Is a Gorgeous Reflection on Love and Shame

Mike Hadreas' fifth album grapples with the juxtapositions of queer love.

Perfume Genius albums are aqueous and dynamic, like ocean storms bookended by fleeting, blissful moments of peace.

Mike Hadreas' fifth album under the moniker, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, is a gut-wrenching image of queer desire. With his constantly shapeshifting breed of avant-garde indie, the sound of Perfume Genius is soaring and sweeping. While his last record, 2017's No Shape, felt meticulous and precise, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately rattles as if you're hearing it from the mezzanine of an orchestra hall.

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Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman.

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did.

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny.

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid.

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper.

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.


That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.


So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.


MUSIC MONDAY | What music is BANFI listening to now?

Aaron & Joe of BANFI takeover #MUSICMONDAY and share their favorite songs.

Right Angle PR

Hey Popdust readers -- meet Banfi, you'll want to know them.

This three piece indie rock band has recently taken the UK by storm. They've released single after single stunning the UK scene with each one. Known for their "unshakeable hooks" and imaginative lyrics, you'll see why when you listen to their newest tracks "Caroline" and "June" below.

Recently, they have been main support for Bear's Den's tour and have also made appearances at several festivals including: Citadel, Boardmasters, and Dot to Dot. Based in London, Banfi is getting ready to embark on their next tour. They will headline across the UK and Europe starting in March, a highlight of their tour being their headline show at London's Oslo on March 22nd. Check out their latest singles...

Listen to "Caroline"

Their newest song "Caroline" is the perfect rock ballad. The song reads more like an apology letter and is a commentary on how sometimes the perfect person comes into your life at the wrong time. The song itself almost feels cinematic especially the introspective introduction and verses.

Listen to "June"

"June" is a lot more optimistic sounding than "Caroline" though it's still a cautionary tale. Both songs are a testament to what good songwriters Banfi are. The lyrics are hard hitting and impactful. The song soars with the electrifying hook that explodes perfectly from a growing pre-hook.

In addition to music makers, Banfi are also music lovers. They've been kind enough to share with our readers what they're listening to now. Aaron, the drummer of the band, has shared with us his favorite songs of 2017 and it's quite the mix. Most of these songs, like Banfi's music wash over you. I'd recommend connecting to the nearest Bluetooth speaker and blasting these gorgeous tunes.

Four Tet | "LA Trance"

This new record in my opinion marked a return to his older sound but with some of the new and beyond chucked in. Brilliant.

Perfume Genius | Slip Away

We love this song so much we covered it and filmed it on a rooftop in Hackney. This album is such an incredible progression from the already amazing first record.

The War on Drugs | "Holding On"

One of the most uplifting songs from what surely must be one of the albums of the decade!

Manchester Orchestra | "The Gold"

Their most epic album to date and for us this is the stand out track.

Forest Swords | " The Highest Flood"

Super dark experimental trip hop which can be inspiring, anthemic and at times depressing...perfect! In all seriousness though, one of the most original albums we've heard in a while.

Instead of sticking to 2017, Joe of Banfi shares what he's been listening to lately across the board. He says, "I've been listening to the artists on Dirty Hit a lot over Christmas - obviously The 1975, but also The Japanese House and Pale Waves. It feels like what they're doing is will be historically important for guitar pop. So my five tracks are from that movement:"

The 1975 | "M.O.N.E.Y"

As he mentioned the 1975 is an obvious choice for him. I personally love this track to because of the amazing combination of organic and electronic sound. Their voices sound so raw and free but the instruments all seem to have a percussive nature making it impossible not to bop to this track.

The 1975 | "Paris"

This is a more mellow, vulnerable track from The 1975. The vocals are just as stunning as ever though. It gives you all of the feels.

The Japanese House | "Sugar Pill"

This song is entrancing from the interesting riff to the rich vocals.

The Japanese House | "Saw You In A Dream"

This song is downright dreamy.

Alex Elbert | "All is Lost"

Joe says, "Whilst I appreciate what they're doing it's just too pop for me I'm afraid. To make me feel balanced out after a pop overload, I'd recommend Alex Ebert's "All Is Lost", from his soundtrack to the film of the same name. Beautiful."

Keep up with Banfi on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter.

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