Books

It Feels So Good When I Stop by Joe Pernice

Pernice channels his inner Charles Bukowski by offering a tome that is totally dirty realism intact.


It Feels So Good When I Stop

Publisher: Riverhead
Length: 275 pages
Author: Joe Pernice
Price: $25.95
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2009-08
Amazon

Indie rock singer/songwriter Joe Pernice can be added to the list of musicians who have turned to penning books. Just recently, we’ve seen a memoir from Dean Wareham, ex of Luna and Galaxie 500, and there’s an autobiography of Bob Mould, ex of Hüsker Dü and Sugar, in the pipeline.

Pernice’s new book up for review here, while a work of fiction, could almost be considered a bit of a memoir. It’s set in October 1996, the same year that Pernice graduated from university, and is largely set in Massachusetts, Pernice's home state.

It concerns an unnamed narrator, who is 20-something and is down on his luck after his marriage to his flame lasts only one day. He drinks too much, is unemployed, rides around on a kid’s bicycle as a means of transportation, and is living in the house of his soon-to-be-divorced sister, while generally stewing in past remembrances of his ex-wife by flashing back constantly to this relationship gone wrong. One has to wonder how much of this book is drawn from personal experience.

Pernice channels his inner Charles Bukowski by offering a tome that is totally dirty realism intact. It's a ribald and often scatological work that is sometimes set in bars, featuring characters that talk about nothing but getting laid. And for any guy out there who has harbored a secret fantasy of taking a dump in a urinal, well, Pernice has a bit of a vignette in that vein. Nothing is sacred in this book.

Pernice, as some may know, was a member of the Scud Mountain Boys in the ‘90s and has been most recently associated with The Pernice Brothers, who have released six albums over the past decade – one of them on the influential Sub Pop Records. What sets him apart from the rest of the pack of musicians putting their pen to the page, though, is that he holds a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Massachusetts, and is the author of a poetry collection, Two Blind Pigeons, and a novella, Meat Is Murder, which was part of the 33 1/3 series from Continuum Books.

Being a musician, pop music naturally permeates throughout this debut novel. He references everyone from Peter Frampton to Mel Tormé and most points in-between. There’s a nice passage where our narrator’s former high school sweetheart hands him a mix tape containing just one song: Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends”. This sets our narrator off against anything to do with Todd Rundgren, including listening to anyone that Rundgren produced, like The Psychedelic Furs and XTC. It’s a funny bit, and the novel is full of such knowing winks and nods to the world of pop (and underground) culture.

However, It Feels So Good When I Stop doesn’t have much going for it beyond such passages, or the frank explicit nature of the work. In fact, for a guy who holds a Creative Writing degree, Pernice makes a lot of 'amateur night at the open mic' kind of mistakes in his writing. First of all, he has a protagonist who doesn’t protag very much. All sorts of things happen to him, but he never changes at all throughout the course of the book.

Once the reader begins to realize this, about halfway through the book, one begins to note the deficiency in the plot, which has about as much depth as a puddle of water spilled onto a kitchen countertop. Pernice’s unnamed narrator, which is also a bit of a writing no-no, meets all sorts of characters – a cop who stops him from bicycling on a freeway, a young woman in his neighbourhood with a difficult past, a crazy old man at a go-kart facility – and not much happens when he does.

It Feels So Good When I Stop even takes an incredulous turn when Lou Barlow – yes, the Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh fame – pops into the narrative as an honest-to-God minor character. The book has the feel of a listless indie movie that moves along smug in its own hipster-ness.

The most annoying thing about this novel, though, is that it keeps on flashing back to the relationship the main character had with his ex-wife. Constantly. Throughout the entire book. The character even makes unanswered phone calls to this old lover about once every forty pages or so. About halfway through, one wants to pen a letter to Pernice to tell him to stop it: we get it. It was a dysfunctional relationship, but our hero is too stupid to realize it. Once one starts to feel this level of contempt for the main character, reading the book starts to become a bit of a chore. Which is a bit too bad, because the book is a bit of a compelling read for its first half or so.

It should be noted that the book has spawned a soundtrack CD, mostly of covers and novel excerpts, also performed by Pernice. It has been fairly warmly reviewed, perhaps moreso than the book, and you can read a PopMatters review of it here. It's unfortunate that the CD does not accompany the book, as it might have made a fine counterweight to the sad sack prose that is on display.

It Feels So Good When I Stop isn’t a horrible book -- it's a fairly quick and engaging read in the early going, at least. However, it just doesn’t congeal as a novel – which is odd considering that Pernice admits in the publicity material that came along with the review copy that he threw out 12,000 words of text, making one wonder if it was at least carefully edited. One could do worse than pick up this book. But its utter lack of character motivation makes this reader wonder if Pernice should really stick to his day job: penning craftman-like three-minute indie rock songs.

5

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web
Film

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Julian Barratt and Oliver Maltman (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image