Yours, Mine & Ours

The Pernice Brothers

Ashmont Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Now here's a band that lends itself to metaphor.

With taffy melodies that stretch and twist, the Pernice Brothers lay dreamy guitar licks over a steady backbeat as Joe Pernice's breathy tenor leads the way, a lighthouse beacon cutting through a thick fog.

Or did I mean similie? Listening to this band is like listening to the Jayhawks on an acid bender, to The Band through a spinning kaleidoscope, or to the bastard child of the Byrds and Roger Waters exorcising his every romantic demon.

Psychedelic Americana? Spaced-out jangle-pop? Yup, that too.

Pernice Brothers is primarily a vehicle for singer-songwriter Joe Pernice's lush, intriguing compositions. However, the band -- brother Bob Pernice (guitar), Peyton Pinkerton (guitar), Thom Monahan (bass/production), Laura Stein (keyboards) and Mike Belitsky (drums) - is a large, tight unit, giving the group, at least in the sense of their creative architecture, somewhat of a Counting Crows vibe.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As for the music, it's pretty cool stuff, once you adapt to this band's distinctive approach. Despite the strong backbeats of tracks like "The Weakest Shade Of Blue," "Water Ban" and "Sometimes I Remember," there are virtually no hard edges here; it's all soft curves and supple melodies. The heavier tracks feature eloquent guitar lines over a thumping rhythm section, yet still manage to come off ethereal and haunting (I keep thinking Cowboy Junkies, but the Pernice Brothers somehow turn the trick of being almost as pretty, yet considerably heavier).

The lyrics are impressionistic poetry ("So familiar that it feels too strange, give a name to this terrifying change") that's typically introverted and serious ("…so close, you sleep / And I don't always mind the quiet that it brings"), but occasionally adds in a dash of irony ("I'll save you from the dreamy life"…not). There's an edge of despair to songs like "Baby In Two" and "How To Live Alone" (not to mention anger in the closing "Number Two," in which Joe calls his ex a "life-sucking power monger"…tell us how you *really* feel), but the brightness of the melodies inevitably counterbalances Pernice's darker obsessions.

If there's a flaw here, it's the distance between band and audience that's sometimes created by the somewhat gauzy production. That adds to the dreaminess of memorable tracks like "Blinded By The Stars," to be sure, but I guess I'm one of those ear-candy-addicted listeners who prefers a punchier, more three-dimensional sound. Admittedly, this is a matter of taste.

This is a unique and rewarding album that should appeal to anyone who enjoys jangly rock with a distinctive point of view. As distant as the Pernice Brothers are musically from the acerbic guitar-pop of bands like Fountains of Wayne, they share a certain aesthetic -- a belief that rock and roll can be used as a vehicle to express serious ideas and convey real, complicated emotions.

Yours, Mine & Ours is well worth giving a spin, a languid yet intense dreamscape that will cling to your imagination for hours after the music fades.

Rating: A-

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© 2004 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Ashmont Records, and is used for informational purposes only.