Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Pernice Brothers

  • Overcome by Happiness [Sub Pop, 1998] **
  • The World Won't End [Ashmont, 2001] B+
  • Discover a Lovelier You [Ashmont, 2005] A-
  • Live a Little [Ashmont, 2006] ***
  • Goodbye, Killer [Ashmont, 2010] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Overcome by Happiness [Sub Pop, 1998]
If the Hollies had created pop so pretty and morbid it would have been genius, but these sad sacks are just doing what comes naturally ("Monkey Suit," "Chicken Wire"). **

The World Won't End [Ashmont, 2001]
His title poised between wise promise and grim prediction, Joe Pernice chooses life because he can't stop the music, which last time conjured Hollies and this time channels Zombies--Odessey and Oracle, to be precise. Whiners with a knack for melody regularly make hay off admitting the girl was too good for them. Just buy my songs, they promise, and I'll prove I've learned my lesson, for now I can love. With thematic input from one of those girls, Pernice rests his stronger case on dulcet vocals bursting with emotion and melodies whose credulous surge inundates all references to suicide and such. I'm almost convinced. But not quite. B+

Discover a Lovelier You [Ashmont, 2005]
"Trying to be a better person," swears Joe Pernice. But though he provides examples, the title on that one is the all too typical "Saddest Quo." So in the end, he proves his good intentions the only way he knows how. Guitars chime, harmonies glide, hooks and choruses stroll by as easily as extras in an impressionist painting--all in the service of such topics as abject poverty, killing someone in a car accident, and our old friend the loss of love. On the loveliest album of Pernice's pretty career, the most eloquent song of all is the wordless title tune. A-

Live a Little [Ashmont, 2006]
Tuneful of course, but even if all this convolution is easier for him, it isn't for us ("High as a Kite," "Somerville"). ***

Goodbye, Killer [Ashmont, 2010]
Compared to rival indie songsmiths, usually younger ones by now, Joe Pernice's contained intensity seems at once conscious and unforced, almost a spiritual thing--though other voices join in, he often sings as if he's harmonizing with himself. Ratcheted up to three-quarters speed at first, this starts off light, even jocular, then slows down to root around in gnarlier stuff. Gnarliest of all is "The Great Depression," which is not about business cycles. Outro goes "I never wanna die" 14X into the fade. A-