It’s been four years since Joe Pernice’s last album and since then he’s been a busy boy, writing a novel for one thing and working on this latest musical offering, along with his brother, Bob, James Walbourne, and Ric Menck. Working with family members isn’t always easy – Gallagher brothers anyone? – and the Pernices aren’t any different. Joe admits that he is not always easy to work with, often taking out his frustrations on brother Bob. Menck even asked him “Original Pernice why do you treat Other Pernice like he’s the younger brother? Don’t be an ID-ee-it. He’s working his ass off. And besides, look at him. He’d crush you like a grape.” If only Noel would crush Liam like a grape…
For those, like me, who are new to the Pernice Brothers (even though they have been going since 1998), their sound is sort of a ‘Countrified Classic Rock’, using laid back guitars with raw vocals, sounding like it could have come straight from the 80s or 90s. At times, especially during the track We Love the Stage, which Pernice refers to as his “homage to vaudeville, indie rock and learning to love betting against yourself,” you can imagine the band jamming in their washed out jeans and genuine 80s band T-shirts. Meanwhile, no doubt, their wives and teenage children probably shake their heads in despair, knowing that they should jack it in, in favour for a sensible M&S jumper. But for the Penrice Brothers, as their song says, ‘love is stage’. What is a little troubling though, is how the track is supposed to be a celebration of a love of music, and yet there just doesn’t seem to be much passion beyond the lyrics. This is a recurring problem throughout the album, sometimes the cool, relaxed sound really works, sometimes it could do with a little more oomph. I mean, come on guys, show the young ‘uns you can still rock out!
When you have a song called Fucking and Flowers that starts off with such a promising low growl of guitars, you have to fucking go for it and yet the Penrice Brothers seem to fail to do this, in fairness though, it is a pretty catchy little tune. There are also some slightly unfortunate moments when the Pernice’s vocals seem to fall a little short of the notes they’re going for, and moments of The Great Depression unfortunately had me cringing, though it does improve in the latter half of the song.
Despite this, there are some tracks that really work; album opener Bechamel is a grower that gets you singing along without even realising it, the perfect soundtrack to a sunny Sunday afternoon drive. Whereas Newport News and The End Of Faith have some genuinely tender, gentle moments with some really nice backing vocals and guitar accompaniments – both electric and acoustic. In fact, The End Of Faith might get the ‘Best Track Award’, as its pretty melodies and vocals from Pernice convey more feeling than in any other song on the album.