In 2006, over a phone interview, Joe Pernice told me that the biggest misconception about him is that he’s miserable all the time. This is the same guy who once began a song with the line “I hate my life,” a slogan which, since, has ended up on the band’s t-shirts, which more than anything shows off the Massachusetts singer-songwriter’s sense of humor. Over the progression of the band’s six albums (plus solo records and side projects), Pernice has aged gracefully into a less overtly melancholy songwriter, mostly shrugging off the sad country ballads of his earlier band Scud Mountain Boys or the orchestral sweep of debut Overcome by Happiness in favor of a warm and charming brand of power pop.
Following 2006’s Live A Little, Pernice’s newest effort Goodbye, Killer doesn’t offer any left-field surprises or dramatic changes of course. Having made a career of pristine power pop gems, Pernice doesn’t deviate far from what he does best and as such, the album is yet another solid collection of memorable melodies and lovable musings on shitty relationships. After having done this a few times, however, Pernice sounds more casual and comfortable here. Even on a track like “The Loving Kind,” a breakup song in which he croons “I’m not the loving kind,” you can still imagine Pernice cracking a smile as he sings it.
Spanning only 30 minutes long, Goodbye, Killer doesn’t waste any time with filler, intros, interludes or epic ballads. That’s never been Pernice’s style. Rather, the album is packed with two-minute pop rockets like “Bechamel,” organ-fueled rockers like “Jacqueline Susann,” heartily grinning tin pan alley pop such as “We Love the Stage” and George Harrison-style slide guitar numbers like the title track. Though the album never quite reaches the gorgeous peaks of Yours, Mine & Ours, arguably the group’s finest set of songs, it’s hard to find fault with anything here. Every track is at the very least pretty fun, and others quite gorgeous.
Joe Pernice isn’t a miserable bastard, and Goodbye, Killer, more than any of his previous albums, seems to get that point across quite clearly. He’s still singing about heartbreak and loneliness here, but less from the perspective of a frustrated young man and more from that of a more mature gentleman who has been there and learned a few things along the way. This is another set of sophisticated power pop songs, certainly, and that’s exactly what Pernice does best.
MP3: “Jacqueline Susann”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.