Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Pernice Brothers-- Discover a Lovelier You

Always winter but never Christmas. Such was the cruel curse in C.S. Lewis’ beloved world of Narnia. Listening to Discover a Lovelier You, it’s tempting to say that, in the world of Joe Pernice, it’s always summer but never vacation.

Pernice might as well have called the album Discover a Lovelier You, Because This Current Model Ain’t Too Pretty. Indeed, there are few pop songwriters who have forged such a prolific career out of cynicism and gloom. Recorded by Pernice and his ad hoc collective of collaborators, Discover a Lovelier You continues the long-running Pernice tradition of creating delicious pop delicacies out of fear, hopelessness, and alienation.

What’s different this time is the musical backdrop. Rarely has there been such a jarringly odd couple of sound and lyric; while Pernice’s sentiment is perpetually cloudy, his music has never sounded sunnier. These are the kind of sweet confections that demand to be played in the car on a hot summer day, windows down and stereo blasting.

Listening to these thirteen new songs, it’s easy to understand why Pernice has developed such a sizeable cult following. The man is a walking encyclopedia of pop music: he channels the spirit of Brian Wilson with the sweet vocal harmonies of “Saddest Quo”; he references 1980s techno on “Sell Your Hair”; and he crossbreeds the Beatles and the Shins on the furious “Snow.” His pleasing, unquavering voice is given ample room by the warm, sun-kissed arrangements, and as a melody writer he deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Sam Phillips, Ron Sexsmith, and Elvis Costello. It’s a recipe for pop brilliance, and Pernice follows it to the letter.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t missteps. Many of the album’s mid-tempo songs (“Sell Your Hair,” “My So-Called Celibate Life”) lack the spark of his livelier tracks, and the social commentary on “Dumb it Down” seems way too easy for a lyricist of Pernice’s caliber. Still, for clunker there are at least a couple of gems. “Saddest Quo” is a heavenly anthem of despair that invites you to sing along at full volume, and the title cut is the album’s gorgeous instrumental centerpiece. And those aren’t even the best songs; just get a load of the killer hook on “Subject Drop” and the amazing glow of “Amazing Glow.”

You’d think that such a talented pop songsmith would have plenty to be happy about, but Pernice, as always, finds the black lining of every silver cloud. The most optimistic line on the whole record comes in the beautiful breakup song, “There Goes the Sun”:

Kick the life from me and none better comes
‘Til one better
comes, there goes the sun


Things just go downhill from there. Political frustration abounds, as Pernice lampoons our age of color-coded homeland security in “Say Goodnight to the Lady” and mourns our culture’s celebration of mediocrity in “Dumb it Down.” In “My So-Called Celibate Life” he’s “out of love and out of luck,” and “it’s a short slide down” to total desperation.

Pernice’s vision of the world is illuminated the brightest in “Saddest Quo.” Here, Pernice vows that he’s “trying to be a better person,” but his hopefulness is tried and tested by the brokenness that surrounds him:

There’s a train wreck
Picking up survivors from a plane crash
On the TV live
And it’s a sad status quotient,
Waiting for the sky to fall

Here, the gaping chasm between sound and lyric begins to make sense. Amidst such sad words, the music turns from bright and chipper to wistful—almost hopeful—as if each hook and every note is really Pernice’s prayer for deliverance. And, as I witness him creating order and beauty in a sometimes ugly world, I realize that the art of the Pernice Brothers may very well be part of the answer to the world’s prayers for healing and grace.

(Originally posted by Josh Hurst at Reveal.)

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Invisi Billy) is #55. Rainbow Dash gets rid of Riffin. Billy finally eliminates Geoff after a 50:48 minute performance. The ring is still filled up with too much deadwood however. Mordecai (Regular Show) is #56 and adds nothing. Applejack (My Little Pony) is #57, match still drags. Buttercup (Powerpuff Girls) is #58 and she tosses Applejack, but there’s about 10 people in there and nothing’s going on. The General (Galaxy Rangers) makes his return at #59, which must indicate how many boxes of Ultimate Cheeseburgers he ate that morning, because he’s still pretty goddamned fat and slow. Remind me not to look up Death Battle for any weight-training solutions. He disposes of Buttercup and Billy, then hands out chokeslams like candy. Burromuerto! Burns! Mordecai! Huntsman! Justin! Heather! T-Bone! Razor! Dash…no wait, Dash in fact blocks it and dumps The General.

Bart Simpson (The Simpsons) is #60, as The General goes after Jonesy Garcia and chokeslams him through the table. Oh, GOODIE, now we don't have to listen to that douchebag for the rest of the night. Hey look, Jesse Ventura is taking over for the injured Garcia at the announce table. There is a god! Everyone suddenly gets smart and goes after the Swat Kats, to no avail. Karate Kat (Karate Kat) is #61, and thank god because maybe he’ll thin out all the extra bodies. Burns, Burromuerto, Bart, Justin, Huntsman, Dash, Heather and Mordecai all exit stage left, leaving the Megakat trio alone to compare fur-care notes. Chris McLean (Total Drama) has the misfortune of being #62, and he dies without putting up much of a fuss. The crowd eats it up. Eddy (Ed, Edd & Eddy) is #63, and there he goes out the other side. Fans chant for Karate and the Swat Kats as they wait for the next victim. It’s Sliced Ice (Skysurfer Strikeforce) at #64, and she’s out on her butt, man, about that many seconds later. Katie Ka-Boom (Animaniacs) is #65, but not for long.

Karate is feeling very confident at this point, and HERE’S Freakazoid! (Freakazoid!) at #66 to pay this off. And yes, Freakazoid! kicks the bejeezus out of them and rids us of T-Bone and Razor at one time. Karate is alone and tries a Time For Bed, but Freakazoid! clotheslines him down and both guys are out. Sharon Marsh (South Park) is #67, and I’m not liking her chances here. An irritated Karate Kat kicks her down and goes after Freakazoid!, but gets tossed to the floor to end his night. Huey Freeman (Boondocks) is #68. He holds his own until Master Shake (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) comes in at #69. Shake goes after Freakazoid!. Julia (Cowboy Bebop) and the skin tight black leather pants suit from heaven is #70. Marsh falls through the ropes onto the outside in pain after a vicious double team by Freeman and Shake. Benson (Regular Show) is #71. Slow period as people wander around waiting for the next booking period to kick in. Ed (Ed, Edd & Eddy) is in at #72.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karate Kat runs in and goes after Freakazoid! in a really poor show of sportsmanship, fights off a few guys, and distracts Freakazoid! long enough for Ed to toss him to start a feud that didn't actually go anywhere. The talent pool is really getting thin. Thundarr (Thundarr The Barbarian) is in at #73 to clear out the deadwood. Benson? Gone. Shake? Back to Jersey. Lois Griffin (Family Guy) is #74, and both she and Julia's leather pants get dumped right away by Freeman. Freeman? Gone. Ed? Gone. Marsh is still passed out on the outside and is probably the next target, when suddenly (as suddenly as he moves), Metal Shark Player plods down and stares down Thundarr. They fight and Thundarr goes over the top to the shock of the crowd. Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon) is #75 and is smart enough to stay back. Louise Belcher (Bob's Burgers) is #76 and she too is smart enough to stay back.

Finally, MSP leaves and the legal people are Belcher, Moon and Marsh. Ferb Fletcher (Phineas & Ferb) is #77 and with the lack of interesting talent the winner is becoming rapidly apparent. Shion Sonozaki (Higurashi When They Cry) is #78 and you can almost sense the fear from her sinister laughing as she stabs Sailor Moon's arms repeatedly and tosses her. Blossom (Powerpuff Girls) is #79 and unless Batman is behind that curtain, the crowd knows Shion's taking it. Kitty Katswell (T.U.F.F. Puppy) is #80. That leaves Marsh, Shion, Fletcher, Belcher, Katswell and Blossom as the last six people. Shion dropkicks Fletcher out and Katswell gets dumped by Blossom. Marsh makes the stupid mistake of charging Shion and goes flying. HUGE heel reaction for that one. Belcher puts Blossom out and then Shion quickly superkicks Belcher to win the Royal Rumble. The entire sequence from Katswell's entrance to the ending took all of a minute and a half. Belcher is not happy with the decision. **1/2 Bad Rumble match.

The Bottom Line: UltimateWarriorFan4Ever produced two HUGE stinkeroos with this show and King of the Ring, and it’s not hard to see why – wrong people getting pushed, moronic storylines, boring matches, and completely unbelievable (as in NOT BELIEVABLE) twists in the storyline in order to produce “shock TV” and keep viewers hooked. Hopefully he's learned from the mistakes of Vince Russo, and won’t repeat them this year.

Strong recommendation to avoid.

11:13 PM  

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