I hate records that make me feel old by just looking at the album artwork. A painting of a bearded, greying Joe Pernice staring straight at me, almost like I’m holding up a mirror, minus the glasses, minus the beard (when I remember to shave). It’s been a long road for the Pernice Brothers, 12 years since their debut Overcome By Happiness, and much longer road for Joe Pernice who’s been honing his craft since the early 90’s with Scud Mountain Boys. You’re clocking up almost two decades of this Joe, and it shows.
Musically, it’s business as usual for the Pernice Brothers, maybe even over-enthusiastically so (see opener “Bechamel“ where it sounds like Joe Pernice has just run up a flight of stairs) in which the regular cast of characters (including Pretenders gun for hire, James Walbourne) decamp to an attic come studio in Massachusetts and bash out an album. If Joe Pernice was a little more prolific, he’d be hitting his Elvis Costello circa Spike phase about now, but Goodbye Killer seems as good as, if not better.
Absent since 2006’s Live A Little, a brisk, 10 song, just shy over 30 minute work-out was what the Pernice Brothers needed to get the blood rushing again. Like “Bechamel”, the Morrissey-riffing urgency of “Jacqueline Susann” and the vaudeville country-twang of “We Love The Stage” where Pernice recalls the highs and lows of touring “it doesn’t matter if the crowd is thin/we sing to six the same we sing to ten” catch you on the unfamiliar-territory back foot. Pernice’s lingering sour moods temporarily replaced by comedy and some old fashioned rocking out.
“Not The Loving Kind”, “The Great Depression”, “Fucking And Flowers” are all perfect readymade song titles for Joe to suck the good times out of life and relationships and the general act of knocking boots. If you get no satisfaction (or a “he understands my pain“ moment) in hearing how shit life and love can be, then Joe Pernice is not the man for you to lend your ear. That said, “Not The Loving Kind” moves lyrically and musically, but then again you are dealing with a man knows which buttons to push.
The riff in “Something For You” nags with familiarity the same way a Teenage Fanclub song would have the same effect, both bands dipping their feet in the same string-bending, harmony-soaked, wading pool and seeing what shapes the ripples make. It’s the Faces “Ooh La La” meets America’s “Sister Golden Hair” on the title track and in Walbourne’s fast fret-work on “Newport News” that you realise Goodbye, Killer is unlike any other Pernice Brothers record to date. It may be business as usual, but I don’t recall them ever sounding quite this good.