Ever since the scud mountain boys shot their way into our consciousness like the eponymous missile via their Sub Pop discs (still available as Massachusetts and The Early Year), those with a penchant for the baroque side of power pop have asked: why aren’t more people getting this?
Subsequent releases, either as Joe Pernice or The Pernice Brothers, put weight behind the rhetoric. Albums like, check, Chappaquiddick Skyline, Big Tobacco, Overcome By Happiness and 2001’s heart-stopping The World Won’t End (wake up, Morrissey fans, this one’s for you) lead towards this latest burst of fireworks in the fog.
Joe Pernice and his band are as clever as their university credentials suggest, but their musical road map is gloriously confused. “The Weakest Shade Of Blue” and the immaculate “Water Ban” (“There’s a mark on me, of love songs burning up in effigy”) give the lie to any lazy idea that the Pernice clan are Americana. They’re just as redolent of Stealers Wheel, New Order or Mozzer as anything depending on a pedal-steel guitar. Besides, Pernice’s Anglophile tendency is no perversion.
As the writer and the singer?and what a wrapped-in-velvet voice Joe has?Pernice takes the major credits on “Baby In Two” and the spooky “Blinded By The Stars”. The layered guitars and minimally crisp rhythms are due in part to Peyton Pinkerton’s Fender lead, a sound described as “like racing downhill in a shopping carriage”.
Despite the wit, dark green moods are everywhere. The flickering TV light behind “Judy”, the desperation of “How To Live Alone” and the cinemascopic “Number Two” are all songwriting of the highest calibre; resonant in appeal, packed with lucid imagery and pillow-stuffed with harmony and melody. This one will get you through the summer, until the last swallow leaves town.