PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Pernice Brothers: Discover a Lovelier You

Zeth Lundy

Fourth studio album from Massachusetts indie pop band is marked by stylistic allusions to early '80s Manchester (England, not New Hampshire).

Pernice Brothers

Discover a Lovelier You

Label: Ashmont
US Release Date: 2005-06-14
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate

Whenever I get overwhelmingly depressed about this life of mine, I can always count on Joe Pernice to remind me that everything is as soul-crushingly bleak as I suspect. Pernice is a comforting songwriter not because he's falsely reassuring or optimistic, but because he extends existential solidarity to those who see the world in all its naked, ugly hostility.

After all, Pernice named one of the Pernice Brothers' records The World Won't End and opened his Chappaquiddick Skyline LP with the line "I hate my life" (now a T-shirt!). No fleeting twists of the pen or multi-interpretable slips of the tongue here: Pernice is no nonsense and all honesty, and that's a beautiful thing.

Detractors slothfully label Pernice's work as mope pop, but that's missing the point. Few function as comfortably in their own sadness as he does, and that's a lot different than saying he wallows in it. Like Eels' Mark Everett, Pernice's sweetly colored somber odes live by an early They Might Be Giants mantra: "Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful". After his Northampton, Massachusetts alt-country outfit Scud Mountain Boys called it quits in 1997, Pernice formed the pop-oriented Pernice Brothers (his brother Bob is the group's only other biological brother) and released the strong Overcome by Happiness in 1998. The superior, depressively blissed out The World Won't End followed in 2001 and set the formidable touchstone by which all subsequent Pernice Brothers records would be judged. It's a high bar that 2003's Yours, Mine & Ours failed to reach.

The band's fourth studio album, Discover a Lovelier You (which, given Pernice's method, I originally misread as Discover a Lonelier You), finally fulfills the stylistic transition begun with Yours, Mine & Ours: it's a record deeply indebted to Pernice's personal influences, namely the Smiths and New Order (see "My So-Called Celibate Life" for a dead ringer of the latter). Flanked by icy synthesizers and rat-a-tat 2x4-ish bass and drum tracks, Discover a Lovelier You often sounds like it comes from a 20-year-old time Manchester capsule; the only distinction are Pernice's sickly sweet melodies and vibrato-less vocals, crinkly like crepe paper, speaking of wounds with the façade of a medicated indifference.

Where previous Pernice Brothers releases like Overcome by Happiness and The World Won't End were informed by luminous overtones of Big Star and the Beatles, Discover a Lovelier You doesn't cast such diffused light. Although it employs a barrage of overdubs and vocal tracks like those past albums, its sound is pristinely chiseled like Yours, Mine & Ours (which is to be expected from a careful craftsman like Pernice) -- but it's also slowing melting, like an ice sculpture that tries to survive its first day in the sun. That's a pretentious way of saying that Discover a Lovelier You can run icy and tepid; while it does correct and perfect the '80s-inspired ambitions of the last record, it still doesn't offer the consistent high of The World Won't End.

The album is frontloaded with three of its best songs: the sorta optimistic, melancholic reverb of "There Goes the Sun"; "Saddest Quo", which pits helpless lines like "Trying to be a better person / Hindsight's twenty and my visibility's worsening" against a dreamy pop arrangement that echoes Buddy Holly's "Words of Love"; and "Snow", which finds the band laying into the paranoid guitar thrusts of Johnny Marr. Discover a Lovelier You's most sublime track, "Amazing Glow", arrives after an extended mixed bag of offerings: some unexciting ("Sell Your Hair"); some uninspired ("Dumb It Down"); and a pleasant, if hardly essential, instrumental ("Discover a Lovelier You"). "Amazing Glow" is worth waiting for, as it achieves the lightheaded, regretful beauty of Pernice's best work. The narrator, exposed and submissive to the oncoming cruelty ("When it came to the wrecking ball / She swung it effortlessly like it had no weight at all"), lays his song on a slowly wilting, precipice-hungry chorus, perhaps finding temporary release in the heartbreakingly appropriate background harmonies.

The next song, "Subject Drop", a duet with Blake Hazard, is the kind of subdued power pop exercise that Pernice can, at this point, knock out in his sleep. And then Discover a Lovelier You ends on an even less significant note, bowing out with two songs of admirable construction but fleeting impact. Discover a Lovelier You will certainly satisfy Pernice's empathetic fan base, but when all is said and done, its highlights aren't nearly as insistently obvious as the Brothers' paramount achievements.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.