It has been barely four months since Purple Kiss had their last comeback, but the septet is already back with their fourth EP, Geekyland. Since debut, Purple Kiss have made their name on a distinct blending of power, femininity, and subversion of gendered expectations, so a comeback centered around a title track called “Nerdy” seemed like an odd choice that might not fit with their image. Purple Kiss being Purple Kiss, Geekyland is its own rebuttal to that thought, primarily in the form of “why not?”.
Geekyland is an album built almost entirely on juxtaposition. “Bye Bye Bully” and “Nerdy” are lyrically about casting off bullies and having confidence in oneself. Rather than finding that confidence, though, Purple Kiss already has it. Moreover, the insinuation that liking video games and comfy clothing automatically makes someone insecure is portrayed as an insulting stereotype. Yet, the delivery is downright seductive. Instead of the clear, crisp vocals of previous releases, Purple Kiss are breathy and enticing. As “Bye Bye Bully” ends, it’s not clear if they’re trying to throw off or tempt their bully, with “why not both” as a distinct possibility.
That seductiveness runs through the entire mini. Purple Kiss have taken the persona of the femme fatale. Breathy, arrogant, and subtle, with a sharp edge to convey lethality, the vocals call back to the archetype’s namers in film noir. Then, the layering places the vocals on the top of the mix, making the singers feel very close physically to the listener. The result is that listening to Geekyland makes one feel as if you’re four seconds from a beautiful woman slitting your throat at any given moment, which is absolutely a compliment. As much as that doesn’t seem to go with being queen of the nerds, why shouldn’t it?
That is what gives much of Geekyland its punch: it’s a stark reminder that confidence and danger can go with anything. “Bye Bye Bully” and “Nerdy” show Purple Kiss asserting their usual brand of ego and disdain, regardless of how nerds are usually perceived as victims. An undercurrent of ruthlessness elevates “FireFlower” from a bland empowerment anthem; “Can’t Stop Dreamin’” comes off as less a love confession and more of a Corleonine offer you can’t refuse; and “Love Is Dead” might actually be a murder plot. Purple Kiss remain who they are, regardless of circumstances.
Then there are the plethora of musical ideas that give Geekyland depth beyond the contrasts. “Nerdy” is odd and offbeat, with a distinctly old-fashioned aesthetic. The singsong scansion and instrumentation bring to mind the musical accompaniments to old silent movies–an unsurprising interest for a self-proclaimed nerd. “FireFlower” is fairly generic, but the Middle Eastern influences give it a touch of personality. There are also some sharp details in the lyrics, such as Purple Kiss specifically comparing themselves to blue flames because it burns hottest, or comparing the scent of a flower to power, seeking to spread their influence in a subtle, seemingly benign way.
“Can’t Stop Dreamin’” is contrasts upon contrasts. It places ethereal synths against an opening of low and slow rapping and a heavily cacophonous chorus, showing how their perceptions of this relationship are out of sync with both reality and their own selves. “Love Is Dead” is easily the standout of Geekyland, giving us punk rockabilly. The bouncy riffs and playful tone are very present, yet the pure rage and borderline out of tune guitars mesh well; these elements are held together by Purple Kiss’s voices and ego. Vibrant, loud, and vindictive, “Love Is Dead” is an instant classic “woman scorned” track.
And then it all comes crashing down. Like on their previous EP, Geekyland ends by dropping the stage act in favor of honesty. Geekyland sees Purple Kiss take on the persona of femme fatales, but as closing track “SuMMer RaiN” makes clear, a persona is all it is.
Gone are the breathy vocals and harsh edge. Instead, Purple Kiss are soft and unsteady as their relationship falls apart. Yet even here there is juxtaposition. The acoustic guitar dominates the mix, but it’s not stripped back–the instrumentals are warm and the mix is well filled out with multiple layers of effects and percussion, with rain sounds as a cherry on top. The end result is devastating–a paralyzing heartbreak with only the hope that their now-ex will be happier without them to provide any solace. “SuMMer RaiN” serves as a stark reminder that underneath the grandiose personas and egotistical performances, Purple Kiss are still people, still capable of hurting, a fact that is far too easily forgotten.
Geekyland is another solid entry in the discography of Purple Kiss. They continue to challenge the status quo by framing their challenges not as confrontations but questions. Why would being a nerd prevent a girl from being confident and authoritative, but also why would confidence mean someone isn’t capable of pain? By cutting both ways, Purple Kiss do not demean softer feelings, but query the assumptions society has about people in any given role.
(Images via RBW, YouTube)