Goodbye, Killer, the first Joe Pernice band album since 2006’s Live a Little is the sound of a man at the height of his powers.
Essentially, it’s everything I love about The Pernice Brothers, but with a little bit more.
Sure, there’s the usual crunchy, yet intelligent, indie alt rock (Bechamel and Jacqueline Sussan), melancholy moments that recall The Smiths – Pernice wrote a book on his love for Meat Is Murder – and polished AM radio pop with a dark undercurrent (the title track and The Loving Kind), but this time around we also get a kooky, honky-tonk-meets-country show tune – We Love The Stage – and, generally, a raw, rough-hewn, rootsy, Americana feel to many of the songs. This may be due to the fact that it was recorded in an attic in Boston.
Pernice’s usual cohorts are also along for the ride – brother Bob, guitarist James Walbourne (Pretenders, Son Volt, and Peter Bruntnell) and Ric Menck (Matthew Sweet, Velvet Crush).
We Love The Stage is one of the obvious highlights – a paean to being a rock and roll band on the road, it’s distinctly more Morrissey than Motley Crue (“We opened up for some Welsh singer who in the ’80s was the rage, ‘cos love is love and we love the stage.”) and it even features a trombone-led knees-up. File it alongside other great songs about being in a band or being a performer – Mott The Hoople’s Saturday Gigs, Matt Monro’s If I Never Sing Another Song and Gene Pitney’s Back Stage spring to mind.
Joe has spent years honing his craft, so much so that this record includes some of his best lyrics yet .
The Loving Kind is a classic Pernice breakup song – it’s easily up there with Costello’s finest.
Or how the achingly beautiful Something For You? “If you love me like a bullet loves the sky – like a perfect shade of colour loves the eye.”
If you prefer something less romantic, then there’s always The Great Depression: “You suck the life out of my family and friends.Even when I go to sleep, the bitch is breathing.”
Speaking about the album, Joe says: “My brother Bob once said that he started playing guitar when he was six, and 30 years later, still played like a six year-old. How true, how true. He also engineers like a six-year-old, which is seriously, a very, very good way to engineer.
“In my opinion, he did a great job capturing the sound of a band. And all hyperbole aside, recording great musicians like James Walbourne and Ric Menck doesn’t hurt. For Bob, recording someone like me definitely hurt. I’m not the most relaxed guy alive. Apparently, and I have no recollection of this, I berated Bob at every turn, like he was a red-headed step child.”
Ah, Joe – you kill me every time.
Goodbye, Killer is released on One Little Indian on June 14.