CD Review of Discover A Lovelier You by Pernice Brothers
Label
Ashmont
Pernice Brothers:
Discover A Lovelier You

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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W
ith the release of Yours, Mine and Ours in 2003, it looked for a minute as though Joe Pernice and his merry band of brothers (well, one brother and a bunch of close friends) had run out of gas. The album wasn’t bad – most bands would kill to write a song as good as Pernice’s worst ones – but it didn’t hold a candle to its predecessors, 1998’s Overcome by Happiness or 2001’s stellar The World Won’t End. Instead, Yours, Mine and Ours was too sterile, too slick, and emotionally distant, a stark contrast for the man who sells T-shirts that say “I Hate My Life.”

Which is what makes their newest album, Discover a Lovelier You, both a welcome relief and a bit of a letdown. The band indeed sounds rejuvenated (relatively speaking, that is; this is the Pernice Brothers, after all), but also dreamy, as if they’re trying to out-Delay the Delays. The album’s biggest flaw is that a good chunk of these admittedly lovely songs float right on by, lacking the punch that made The World Won’t End so pretty and yet so devastating.

The good stuff is on par with Pernice’s best. The instrumental title track has one of the album’s strongest melodies (leaving it an instrumental: smart), and the haunting “Red Desert” has an out line that will penetrate your skull like a parasite. “Snow” beats the New Pornographers at their own game, but the best moment here is “Subject Drop,” a shimmering alt-country duet with Blake Hazard (for the uninitiated, yes, she’s female) that stands as one of the most personal songs Pernice has ever done.

So what, then, to make of pretty/vacant songs like “My So-Called Celibate Life” or “Say Goodnight to the Lady,” both perfectly serviceable but impact-free? Those, combined with sluggish moments like “Sell Your Hair” and “Pisshole in the Snow” are what ultimately weigh the album down. It’s not the fact that there are wrist-slitting moments like “Pisshole” on the album – those songs are a given on any Pernice-related product – but how little of a mark those songs leave.

It may seem unfair to speak so negatively of a band that, in fairness, still hasn’t made a bad record. But that is the curse that comes with making albums as remarkable as the Pernice Brothers have made; it all shines brightly, but compared to the really brilliant stuff, the merely good material instead looks rather pale. Discover a Lovelier You is well above average, but Pernice Brothers fans, rightfully, have come to expect bigger and better things than what the band delivers here.

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