Overcome By Happiness

The Pernice Brothers

Sub Pop Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: George Agnos


Sub Pop records started a major musical trend when it released Nirvana's breakthrough album, Bleach. Could they be starting another trend in an entirely different direction with the release of the Pernice Brothers' new album, Overcome By Happiness? Joe Pernice, formerly of the country-rock band, The Scud Mountain Boys, has teamed up with his brother Bob to give us mellow melodic folk-pop with a twist.

On this album, you will hear jangling guitars all over the place backed up by an orchestra with string flourishes, some horn parts, and a good dose of piano. But as beautiful as the music is, and as dreamy as Joe Pernice's wispy voice can be, there is some bite to the lyrics that keep everything from getting too mushy. The sound reminds me at times of the Smithereens in their more mellow moments, and this album has melodies that the Smithereens' leader Pat DiNunzio would kill to have written.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album will hook you from the beginning with the cloying melody of "Crestfallen" which is about lost love, and the singer has a few parting shots as he sings "It's hard to read a simple mind." The song ends with a string instrumental interlude that reminds you that this is no ordinary pop album. Then comes the title tune with its somewhat loungey feel. I like the chorus with contains a jangly guitar part that just shimmers. This is the prettiest song about a loser that I've ever heard.

My choice for the single would be "Clear Spot" because this piano-based midtempo song is probably the most straightforward of the bunch. There is some nice bass work on this song from Thom Monahan. Other highlights include "Dimmest Star", an achingly beautiful song that sounds like it was written by Brian Wilson for the Pet Sounds album, even boasting similiar harmonies. Quite a few people will identify with "Monkey Suit", another appealing midtempo song that skewers the white collar workplace.

As you figured out by now, the Pernice Brothers are attempting to combine the feel of sixties music with the attitude of the nineties. Song after song, they succeed with flying colors. The only weak songs in the bunch are "Sick Of You" which is a short throwaway, and the last song, "Ferris Wheel" which is just too slow and not very interesting.

So is Overcome By Happiness the next Bleach? Doubtful. Despite a few similiarities in the lyrics, The Pernice Brothers' subversiveness is way too subtle. But who knows? If swing music can come back, can gentle sixties pop be too far behind? And subversion never went down as easy as it does on this album.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 1998 George Agnos 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 Sub Pop Records, and is used for informational purposes only.