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Overcome by Happiness

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Album Review

It's probably best, when it comes to this LP, that only ardent alt-country fans knew who the Scud Mountain Boys were, much less bought the band's three LPs. Singer/songwriter Joe Pernice split up the Scuds in order to trade in the whole genre for this new, semi-solo direction: aside from his continued ability to compose indelible tunes and thoughtful relationship lyrics, there's no Scud Mountain to be scaled in this new province of Pernice. Guess what? In gaining a new start, he blows away his back catalog. Though Pernice's voice seems drenched in melancholic syrup, and it could stand to be a little more powerful, it's got the well-worn sincerity of someone who's a tad tired of falling well short of romantic revelry — or at least the kind that lasts. And when this self-professed loner reveals that he and close collaborator Thom Monahan wanted to make "a bit of a downer," one can only respond "mission accomplished," and well-done. For Pernice actually makes his minor despondency beautiful; burbling beds of background strings tug at the heart like a sleepy kitten does a ball of twine or a mouse toy. Bits of brass don't bark, but instead sing sweetly, and everywhere there is pretty piano plinking, adding sparkling dimension, depth, color, and shade. For all his lyrical disquiet, the puzzling Pernice is just as in love with undeniably up, contrarily catchy, harmonically developed pop, the kind the late '60s offered. The singer admits a love of the pre-disco Bee Gees, Zombies, Beach Boys, and Chris Bell, and he's up to penning songs as subtle, graceful, challenging, and hopeful-sounding as such giants, which casts the opposing emotions of his words in a superbly clever light. Moldy clichés like "there's something about you" (the bouncy "Clear Spot") and "don't ever leave" (the swaying "Dimmest Star") are actually expressions of vulnerable distaste and frustration in his context — you can all but see him shake his head, frown, and wince! From the crystal melodies of "Crestfallen," "Monkey Suit," and "Wait to Stop" and the slower, somber, greenhouse-gorgeous "Overcome by Happiness" and "Chicken Wire," this shy man has made a near-perfect modern songsmith swoon album.

Customer Reviews

Damn Good Album

I read somewhere that Joe Pernice has the breathiest voice this side of Colin Blundstone (Zombies). I got this after I heard all the other albums. What a gem. Monkey Suit is a good place to start. This, and the next two albums are highly recommended.


Formed: 1998 in Dorchester, MA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Formed after the 1997 breakup of singer/songwriter Joe Pernice's alt-country group the Scud Mountain Boys, the Pernice Brothers did an about-face from the lush '70s country sound of their final album, Massachusetts, and came up with the lush orchestrated pop of 1998's Overcome By Happiness. Recorded for Sub Pop, the album featured Joe's brother Bob (the lone holdover from the Scuds), guitarist Peyton Pinkerton from the New Radiant Storm Kings, bassist/producer Thom Monahan, drummer Aaron Sperske,...
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Overcome by Happiness, Pernice Brothers
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