As Joe Pernice moves in time and style further away from the body of work he helped create as a member of the Scud Mountain Boys, he moves closer to a brilliant evocation of his pop influences. With the Scuds, Pernice presented a glimpse of his idols, but the references were filtered through the band's gauzy acoustic folk. More telling were a pair of Sub Pop singles performed with his brother, Bob, and some sympathetic friends, under the name the Pernice Brothers. When the Scuds broke up, Pernice was ready. He and Bob released a full-length debut in 1998. Overcome by Happiness was a collection of bruisingly beautiful pop songs, full of minor-key longing. The disc rightfully landed in a number of Top 10 lists.
Nearly two years after the crystalline brilliance of the Pernices' debut comes an odd little project that ostensibly serves as a stopgap release until the full Pernice contingent regroups for its sophomore album. The band here is comprised of songwriter and guitarist Joe Pernice, bassist Thom Monahan, and guitarist Peyton Pinkerton. Pernice establishes the dour tone of Chappaquiddick Skyline from the start. "I hate my life," he sings, on the sparsely arranged "Everyone Else Is Evolving." The ornate string arrangements that dominated Happiness have been stripped away here, leaving an acoustic demo sound.
Pernice references the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" in "Kidney Shaped Pool" by quoting its most famous line ("If you should ever leave me, life would still go on, believe me "). The melody is pure White Album. Despite the low-fi setting, Pernice's devotion to his pop heroes -- Lennon and McCartney, Brian Wilson, Dylan -- is never in doubt. Chappaquiddick Skyline is proof positive that he doesn't require much sonic ornamentation to get his point across. -- Brian Baker
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