Joe Pernice: It Feels So Good When I Stop

This slight-yet-compelling covers album accompanies pop craftsman Joe Pernice's first foray into the world of letters.

Joe Pernice

It Feels So Good When I Stop

Label: Ashmont
US Release Date: 2009-08-04
UK Release Date: 2009-09-07

Joe Pernice's intoxicatingly melodic, A.M. radio-influenced pop music has always had a literary bent, and Pernice hinted at more literal literary ambitions when he broke rank and wrote a novella instead of an essay on The Smith's Meat is Murder for the 33 1/3 series. So it comes as little surprise that Pernice, who received a Master's degree in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, has finally gone and written a proper novel, It Feels So Good When I Stop.

Like many first novels, it's a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story. The hero, a nameless recent UMass graduate, is living a typically shiftless 20-something life when he gets involved in a relationship that leads to a marriage that ends after just one day. It sounds straight out of the Nick Hornby school of storytelling, but unlike Hornby, Pernice is capable of playing the music that informs his fiction-writing. Thus, he has accompanied his debut novel with a CD of covers, book excerpts (read by Pernice) and one original instrumental (credited to the Young Accuser, a fictional band of which the book's hero is briefly a member).

The brief readings that punctuate the album aren't of use to those who don't plan to read the book, although it's possible they may intrigue some listeners enough to change that plan. They do give the listener an idea of how the tracks figure into the book's story (in the funniest spoken-word interlude, Pernice's narrator confesses that “I had always thought of Del Shannon being right down there with Pat Boone. Why? Because I didn't know what the fuck I was talking about.”) More than anything, though, the excerpts interrupt the music; thankfully, there are only three of them, and they're individual tracks that can be easily removed before uploading the CD to your music library.

But back to Del Shannon: Pernice's reliably elegant pop arrangements and gossamer vocals amplify the sorrow in his already maudlin "I Go to Pieces", originally a Beatles-esque bubblegum hit for Peter and Gordon in 1963. Likewise, Pernice's whispery grovel on "I'm Your Puppet", takes James & Bobby Purify's ode to romantic submission to a profoundly emasculating level. Nearly every song on the album finds Pernice extracting every ounce of latent despair from the songs he's interpreting. Only his true-to-the-original version of Sebadoh's "Soul and Fire" fails to up the ante on the original artist's romantic angst; but out-emoting Lou Barlow is a lot to ask of even the saddest of sacks.

It's not surprising to see Pernice gravitate toward songs that wallow in pity and despair -- embellishing sadness with the turgid filigrees of the late '70s pop idiom has long been his stock in trade. Moreover, early reviews of the book version of It Feels So Good When I Stop indicate that the hero spends a good deal of time mired in various shades of self-inflicted woe. But Pernice, songwriting veteran that he is, changes up the tempo and tone often enough to keep things engaging, if not lively. His take on the Dream Syndicate's "Tell Me When It's Over" takes on a pleasant Byrds-on-quaaludes quality, and an acoustic cover of Todd Rundgren's buoyant pop masterpiece "Hello It's Me" is a sad and poignant coda to an album that, more than anything else, reminds us that there's a deep well of sadness lurking beneath the surface of almost every sunny pop song. Furthermore, it's a pleasing reminder that Pernice has a unique gift for articulating that sort of sadness with grace, beauty, and a hazy feeling of self-loathing to which many of his male listeners can undoubtedly relate.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.