The Pernice Brothers always struck me as what might’ve happened if Big Star was forced to spend its golden years slogging through zombified day jobs in Waltham office parks as the Massachusetts snow muddied its way into a delayed spring. Smart, subdued, and looped-out as a lunch-break toke, the Pernice Brothers take the dream-chamber-power-pop aesthetic and unreel it in beatific, mundane-miserabilist flaxen waves.
On this, their sixth album, the Pernice Brothers continue to deliver. Longtime fans will be particularly jazzed about the resurrection of the Scud Mountain Boys’ classic, painful “Grudge Fuck,” while new stunners like “Zero Refills” have a soulful elegance that recalls the more sublime moments of Hall & Oates. Orchestral, lush and beautifully performed, it’s a great-sounding record.
The real heft and tug of Live A Little, like all Pernice Brothers albums, comes from the dramatic tension between the euphoria of Joe Pernice’s creeping romanticism and the jagged bleakness of his characters’ near-misses grasping for warmth in one another. The dazzling gloss of “Lightheaded,” for instance, leads into the sartorial nostalgia of “High As A Kite,” where a summer of drugs, clumsy love and pictures of Joe Strummer collapse without warning into a simple, “goodbye.” Lurking through it all is the half-whispered notion that escape into the light is always possible but by no means easy to achieve—witness “PCH One,” where Joe coos, “PCH One might be a catalyst, a panacea,” but with a wistfulness that suggests the oceanside daydream eludes him even as he conjures it to mind. Sad, sweet and mature as ever, the Pernice Brothers keep twisting their emotional kaleidoscope to great effect.