Pernice Brothers – Goodbye, Killer

January 01, 1970

(Ashmont) 

 

www.ashmontrecords.com

 

Writing
songs about relationships can pose a challenge as time goes on. When a
40-something sings about hot girls – as opposed to women – it can sound a
little creepy. Or clichéd. Or else it feels like a desperate attempt to cling
to youth, and that’s never a good thing.

 

Not so
for Joe Pernice. Right as the latest Pernice Brothers album is settling in,
he’s lusting after a femme on a train, but what’s in her hands carries as much
cred as what’s in her pants: “I want to gum up her plans/ were that I was a
book in her hand/ Christ, she’s reading Ford Maddox Ford and Jacqueline
Susann.” It’s a skilled twist on the subject and the phrasing nails it. The
song, named for the second author in the lyric, also contains the hardest rock
the Pernice Brothers have committed to disc since 2005’s “Snow,” with chunky
power chords and a feverish guitar solo. The blast of passion doesn’t last
beyond this track, but it proves that this songwriter is ready to expand on the
sound that marked his back catalog too.

 

After a
series of adult symphonies to God, Pernice has broken a four-year silence with Goodbye Killer (Ashmont), an album that
takes his finely crafted narrative style (read: tragic and beautiful) and
tweaked the arrangements. He has pared down the quasi-orchestral sea of guitars
and keyboards from earlier albums with the current lineup of his brother Bob,
Ric Menck (Velvet Crush, Matthew Sweet) and James Walbourne (Sun Volt, among
others). The quartet has a more immediate live sound, as they switch from
electric to acoustic guitars, deliver more of those distorted solos and drop in
some dual guitar leads that sound like they originated on All Things Must
Pass
.

 

Lyrically,
Goodbye Killer overflows with
couplets – and even phrases – that sound as good out of context as they do
within: “Now it only half-way scares me to the bone,” ranks among the best of
them (“The Loving Kind”). Always the writer’s writer, Pernice even stops
himself mid-chorus in another song to opine, “That’s a metaphor, I believe.” “We
Love the Stage” roasts the life of a never-will-be musician who can’t shake the
performance bug even as success regularly misses the set. “It doesn’t matter if
the crowd is thin/ we sing to six the way we sing to ten/ we like the way an
intro four-count sounds like three,” he deadpans without getting maudlin or
hokey while the band plays a jazzy soft shoe.

 

“Bechamel”
almost gets the album off to a too-precious start, due to Pernice’s
over-enunciated vocal over the pristine acoustic guitars. He’s much more
convincing when he sings softly about relationships in disarray. But even this
song manages to win the cynic over with its dinner party/seduction storyline,
especially when he rhymes “cellophane” with “aspartame.” The song’s setting
might be something the over-40 crowd can relate to, but the emotions of the
song are timeless, which proves what a skilled songwriter Pernice is after all
this time.

 

Standout Tracks: “Jacqueline
Susann,” “Something for You.” MIKE SHANLEY

 

 

 

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