Rebel-with-a-cause Object as Subject rages, empowers on debut art-punk album ‘Permission’

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With the sheer number of protests constantly taking place, it can be easy for all of them to fade into white noise, few of them making an impression. The protest that is Permission by Object as Subject is uniquely successful in that it demands to be listened to, equal parts good music and social commentary.

The debut album from Object as Subject — a music project started by Paris Hurley — is the auditory embodiment of a feminist street protest. Marrying sophisticated grace and clean vocals with  power chords and banging drums, the album is a bold middle finger to patriarchal norms.

It’s not an album for everybody — getting used to the nontraditional format of art-punk is a learning curve. And Object as Subject is at its core art-punk — something proven true by its reliance on performance art.

The music video for “REMOVAL,” the ninth track off Permission, was released a few weeks before the album itself. The intense, almost primal choreography, paired with Hurley’s furious vocals and blaring bass riffs, grants much fuller life to Object as Subject’s core message: Women are strong, and they will not be silenced.

But the album, when standing on its own, still has plenty to offer in terms of meaning. As a whole, it isn’t really a progression. Instead, it’s a collection of unique battle cries, each track as passionate as the one before it but with different themes.

“CONSTRUCTION MAN” and “POM POM MOVES” are two of the most brutal anger anthems of the bunch. They both call out the brutality of men who feel entitled to women’s bodies.

“POM POM MOVES,” particularly, doesn’t follow the traditional structure of “verse, chorus, refrain.” One of the most accessible songs on the album, Hurley gets the gist across through intense chants of “pussy pussy pussy” and indignation at men who tell women not to be “pussies” even though they expect exactly that from them.

In an interview with L.A. Record, Hurley said the song was based on her real-life experiences with misogyny in the music industry, including an encounter with a man who told her he wanted to see her “pompom moves.”

That’s part of the reason that Permission feels so intense. Everything in it is based on the reality of being a woman in a male-dominated society. But Hurley doesn’t stay within the confines of her personal experiences. Songs such as “YEAH, YOU WANT ME (TO BELIEVE)” and “SINNER” discuss the religious oppression of women.

“YEAH, YOU WANT ME (TO BELIEVE)” is also the album’s opening track, and it isn’t an accident that this is the song meant to introduce listeners to Object as Subject’s debut work. It sets the tone for the album, the stripped-down sound giving way to the realization that this isn’t just a punk-rock album, but so much more than that.

It is, in every way, protest in the form of music. It is meant to outrage those who can connect to it.

A lot of punk music can be too busy to even be decipherable, its meaning lost in the incessant banging of drums and distorted, messy vocals. Evidently, Object as Subject took the time to evaluate how it wanted the album to be interpreted. While the punk elements are certainly there, they are mellowed out enough for the “art” side of art-punk to ring out loud and clear.

One of the album’s gifts, of sorts, is the last track, simply titled “iii.” It is dedicated solely to Hurley’s violin, a violent yet sad composition that so fiercely contradicts the rest of the album in terms of production — and yet solidifies the album’s thesis all the same. It is an auditory presentation of a frustration that can’t be put into words. “iii.” should not work for a project such as this one, and yet it does, once again showing just how seamlessly out-of-the-box Object as Subject can be.

This album may not be the best background music, but it is the perfect album to listen to when the desire for something distinctly different strikes. It’s unique, fresh and a gorgeous product of a not-so-gorgeous reality.

Object as Subject’s Permission doesn’t need permission to headbang and rage — and it makes it clear that no other woman needs permission either.

Contact Alex Jiménez at [email protected]. Tweet her at @alexluceli.