Former Scud Mountain Boy Joe Pernice has moved some way from the kitchen-table recorded albums that brought him alt-country fame in the US. While progressing from the sparse arrangements of the Scud Mountain Boy's first two albums, 'Pine Box' and 'Dance the Night Away', even 1996's fuller-bodied (yet still determinedly country), 'Massachusetts' gave little hint of what was to come. Two years later, Pernice side-stepped the Scuds and released the Pernice Brothers first album, 'Overcome By Happiness', a fully fledged pop classic in the mould of Elvis Costello or Teenage Fanclub. Leaving behind the unvarnished country of songs like 'Silo' and 'Grudge ****', Pernice's inspired songwriting was once again to the fore, but this time set amongst strings rather than slide guitars.
Although Pernice describes The Pernice Brothers as his "MAIN band", the following releases (both during 2000) were not under that name. He describes the introspective and melancholy 'Chappaquiddick Skyline' as "a collection of songs that, to me, was different than the others - I didn't want to release that record as a Pernice brothers record". Splitting from his label, Sub Pop, he released 'Big Tobacco' several months later. It contained songs that were written for a never-recorded Scud Mountain Boys album. Pernice shrugs it off lightly, "I had time and I had the songs which I liked but it wasn't my main thing, it wasn't what I wanted to be spending the bulk of my time doing." Ultimately, he says, everything has been gearing up to the making of the Pernice Brothers' new album – 'The World Won't End'.
Released in Ireland by Independent Records at the end of this week (and by Pernice's Ashmont Records in the US), 'The World Won't End' is another collection of lushly orchestrated Pernice Brothers' songs. Inspired by classical melodies from the 1960s and 70s, lyrics about loss ("Five years and it still hurts when I hear your name" - 'Endless Supply') and disillusion ("A cheap dress-up temp job and a tan by cold fluorescent light/'Anticipation' playing from a radio, it mocks her life" - 'Working Girls') are offset by sweet melodies and soaring strings. Like 'Overcome By Happiness' (which explores themes of lost love, suicide and failure), the optimistic title belies the heartbreaking songs within; Pernice admits that he likes to "slip in some grim messages...on the back of a happy melody". With the bruised beauty of Pernice's hushed voice alternately pleading and demanding, the sweet sadness of 'The World Won't End' will keep you company during the loneliest of summer days.
The Pernice Brothers play Sir Henry's, Cork on June 1, The Roisin Dubh, Galway on June 2 and Whelan's, Dublin on June 3.
'The World Won't End' is released by Independent Records on May 25.