Puro Instinct have spent the run-up to second album ‘Autodrama’ aligning themselves with pop. Last month, they released a breathy cover of Madonna’s 1994 slow jam ‘Inside Of Me’ and in a recent interview with the Love Is Pop blog, singer Piper Kaplan fantasised about touring with Katy Perry. For Piper and her younger sister Skylar – who both grew up on weed and punk and who inhabit Hollywood’s trashy freak scene alongside friend, collaborator and provocateur Ariel Pink – it’s a significant shift.
The sisters’ 2011 debut ‘Headbangers In Ecstasy’ was disorientating, with Skylar’s guitar lines – derived from record labels Creation and 4AD’s 1980s heyday – swimming in hazy oddness. Produced by the band, with help from Pink and former member of Test Icicles Sam Mehran, its follow-up is cleaner and more conventional. But there’s a tease of their old sound before the murk lifts completely. Opener ‘Panarchy’ – a four-minute musing on thriving in adversity that repeats the line “No stars in the sky tonight to guide me to the morning light” – is pleasantly trippy, with bursts of bass, guitar and synth merging with faraway vocals.
Thereafter, Puro’s new-found pop instinct takes over. ‘Peccavi’ (Latin for ‘I have sinned’) is built on danceable drums and a euphoric drop that counterbalances painful sentiment (“Always on my own/ I’m all alone and crying”) with gorgeous instrumentation. The sisters’ debut drew comparisons to Felt and REM, while here they sound more like ‘Spinning Around’-era Kylie Minogue. There are even bigger choruses later: ‘Six Of Swords’ has shades of Blondie and deserves its own dance routine; ‘What You See’ is gooey and addictive; and ‘Want Your Love’ slinks like Madonna.
But for all that, the real appeal of ‘Autodrama’ lurks between the choruses, where weirdness still flourishes. It’s there in the squealing guitar on ‘Scorpio Rising’, the stop-start beats on ‘Babylon’ and the plasticky keyboard running through ‘End Of An Era’, which feels especially smudged by their friend Pink’s fingerprints. Pink – who played Skylar’s 16th birthday party, druggy hangers-on in tow – also handles rhythm guitar on ‘Tell Me’. Combining a juicy, hummable melody with unorthodox synth and guitar lines, it precisely defines Puro Instinct 2.0 – pop, but not as you know it.