By Scott Roberts
If you’re already a fan of Joe Pernice and the Pernice Brothers and you’ve previously been enamored with the lush arrangements of their 1998 debut Overcome by Happiness or smitten with the immediate pop perfection of songs like “Weakest Shade of Blue” or “7:30,” you might be initially slightly disappointed with their relatively sparsely produced latest release, Goodbye, Killer, the band’s first since 2006’s Live A Little. If, however, you are an admirer of Pernice’s penchant for penning three-minute melodically magnificent gems peppered with lyrics rich with wit and emotional depth, then just one or two more listens to Goodbye, Killer will be all you need to fall in love with it.
Joe Pernice has often sounded, both musically and lyrically, like Elvis Costello if he’d been raised in Boston instead of Liverpool, and nowhere has this been more apparent than on the first two cuts of the CD. “Bechamel” and “Jacqueline Susann,” with their brusque, staccato vocals and unique phrases such as “Her aperitif spat down my throat” and “I want to gum up her plans,” would both fit easily on Costello’s first few albums. Musically speaking, both are presented in such stripped-down form that they almost come across as demos and serve as a clue that something a bit different is going on this time around. And if those tracks don’t inform the listener of this, the third track, the music-hall inspired “We Love The Stage,” certainly will as it sounds like nothing The Pernice Brothers have ever done before. The slightly goofy, anachronistic arrangement (including some well-placed trombone playing near the end) belies some humorously heartfelt autobiographical lyrics like “My boy thinks I’m his uncle/There’s a dog who never knew my smell (just as well)” and may require some patience from listeners to feel the full effects from.
What follows is a stylistic mixture of songs rife with influences worn more clearly on Pernice’s sleeves than in the past (The Faces on the title track; The Lovin’ Spoonful on “The Great Depression”) that all but sound like an AM radio station in the 1970s, perhaps due to the CD being recorded over a two-year period rather than in one chunk of time. And despite the absence of long-time guitarist Peyton Pinkerton, whose tasteful playing has been a staple on every other Pernice release, the fretwork of James Walbourne and Bob Pernice more than make up for the loss of Pinkerton with especially terrific work on “Bechamel,” “F***ing and Flowers,” and some George Harrison-esque slide on “The Loving Kind.”
Goodbye, Killer, though perhaps not as obvious in its wonderfulness as, say, The World Won’t End, is nonetheless a record that The Pernice Brothers should quite rightly be proud of, and fans will enjoy and cherish alongside the band’s impressive body of work.