Monday, September 21, 2009

Joe Pernice, Songwriter vs. Novelist

ANYONE who follows indie rock closely knows that songwriter joe pernice isnt kidding when he says, "coming up with melodies is a pretty easy thing for me to do. it doesnt take a lot to get me to do it."

songs like "penthouse in the woods," from '90s alt-country band the scud mountain boys, and "crestfallen," by chamber pop band the pernice brothers, have a melodic perfection that sounds effortless.

writing a novel ended up more daunting, even tho pernice had produced a smiths-inspired novella for 33 1/3 called "meat is murder," which wrapped '80s nuclear dread, catholic school, and adolescent angst into the same brief package.

his new novel, "it feels so good when i stop," is a black humor tale of gen x disorientation. set mostly in cape cod off season, it's one of the best glimpses at young men and their relationship to music since nick hornby's "high fidelity."

HERE is my LATimes story on pernice, for which i spent some time with the musician (in a bad airport hotel) and spoke to "little children" / "election" author tom perrotta.

pernice has also released a cd he calls a soundtrack: even though almost none of the songs are by him, it's my favorite work of his in years. he makes a case for songs which have lodged themselves in the collective unconscious without really becoming classics: sammy johns' "chevy van," tom t. hall's "that's how i got to memphis," del shannon's "i go to pieces."

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