There must come a time when a great artist gets tired of being just a critics darling, with a small but devoted band of hard core followers. When that happens, some artists make a mad dash to the center, trying desperately to make their mark on the mediocre middle. Others soldier on, doing what they do, making great music and living close to the vest. When the talk turns to the great ones, the ones that really made an impact, it’s that latter group that we tend to remember. Joe Pernice is one of them.
In the mid-90s, Pernice put together a band called the Scud Mountain Boys. They released two albums before signing to Sub Pop and putting out the Americana masterpiece called Massachusetts. When the Scuds disbanded, Joe and his brother Bob put together the Pernice Brothers. Still recording for Sub Pop, they released the critically acclaimed Overcome By Happiness. A couple of solo albums followed, and then Joe and his manager created Ashmont Records. More Pernice Brothers albums ensued, culminating with their last album, Live A Little, in 2006.
Since these albums, whether band or solo, usually included members of the Pernice extended family, to avoid any more confusion Joe has agreed to release all future product under the name of the Pernice Brothers. To begin with, we have the new album Goodbye, Killer (Ashmont Records). Once again it’s an instant classic, and once again it won’t sell as many copies as it should, but at this point there is no fear that the Pernice Brothers are prone to compromise.
If your musical taste leads you to quality songwriting and performance, there is something here for you. In my case, there are ten somethings here in the form of ten finely honed songs that run the gamut musically from the pop culture obsessed “Jacqueline Susann” (a paean to the late author of Valley of the Dolls), to the shimmering power pop of “Something For You,” and “Fucking and Flowers,” and the blindingly beautiful, intensely melodic alt-country ballad “The Loving Kind.”
It’s all simply and cleanly produced, and features the all-too-rare sound of real musicians playing real music in a room at the same time. When you combine people who can play and sing with great songs, studio tricks really aren’t necessary. Goodbye, Killer is the kind of album that is so real and so honest that it makes you want to punch some jackass auto-tuner aficionado in the face. Look, buy it or don’t buy it, Joe Pernice and his family and friends will keep making great music. Of course if you don’t, you will have missed one of the most joyous, infectious albums I’ve heard in quite some time.