Mannequin Pussy (Photo: Scott Troyan)

When it comes to the trappings of emotional turmoil, perhaps no subject goes so woefully overlooked as the breakup call: those bittersweet, entrail-twisting expressions of love and hate exchanged at the height of amorous delirium. It could take the form of duets screamed by exes in heat, outside the bar, the frantic pitter-pats of a late-night texting session, or (perhaps most terrifyingly) plain, old pillow-talk; in any case, the scars are unavoidable. Mannequin Pussy has been on the receiving end of “the call” many times—and on its sophomore album Romantic, its got the tear-soaked, puke-stained receipts to prove it.

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Mannequin Pussy has been undergoing steady growth spurts since its inception at the start of the decade. Originally a pair of childhood friends (frontwoman Marisa Dabice and guitarist Thanasi Paul), the project evolved into a scuzzy trio for 2014’s Gypsy Pervert LP. Romantic marks the enlistment of drummer Kaleen Reading and bassist Colins Regisford, and accordingly, an uptick in Mannequin Pussy’s caustic potential. That’s a remarkable feat, considering the band has garnered a reputation as one of the filthiest in Philly—but then again, it all comes down to strength in numbers, as evidenced by blistering cuts like “Emotional High” and “Meatslave One.”

Most of Romantic sees Paul and this newly minted rhythm section stirring up a crunchy, Crass-like frenzy—the requisite blood in the water before Dabice rises up from the deep to titillate (and then promptly tear apart) the object of her desire. She’s less a lead vocalist than a professional mourner on the queasy “Kiss” or the title track, where she forces a smile (“I get along with everyone I meet / I’m so sweet”) and quickly crumples into chaos. In the album’s highlight, she takes one gulp of air, two fistfuls of her hair, and then lets loose a blood-curdling scream: “I’M IN HELL!”

However mired in the pits of hardcore’s personal hell, Romantic offers the occasional glimpse of pop bliss. In “Emotional High” and “Beside Yourself,” Mannequin Pussy flirts with jangle-pop, while “Pledge” taps into Melvins’ irresistible, mucky mainframe. But Romantic is an album about love, and whether we’ve answered “the call” or not, love’s a messy, ephemeral phenomenon. Consider this 11-song, 17-minute album, then, Mannequin Pussy’s glitter-filled Molotov cocktail flung at the head of every infuriating Tinder fling, fading summer crush, or ghosting paramour whose call you’ve ever had to heed. Take cover: This band doesn’t miss.


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