PERNICE BROTHERS, CLEM SNIDE
Like waves washing up on a beach, musical trends leave a good deal of litter behind, and in the last five years I've heard more stilted alt-country confessionals and Brian Wilson-style pseudosymphonies than I care to remember. But I've also heard those two impulses wedded in novel ways--first and foremost by Wilco, but also by the guitar bands on this excellent double bill, both of which combine the morbid wisdom of classic country and the aural imagery of orchestrated pop. Joe Pernice, leader of the Pernice Brothers, made a name for himself in the Scud Mountain Boys, a Massachusetts alt-country outfit that released three albums in quick succession and flamed out in 1997. Overcome by Happiness (Sub Pop), the 1998 debut by his pop ensemble the Pernice Brothers, was so wispy it threatened to float away, but the follow-up, The World Won't End (Ashmont), is a knockout, its ringing guitars and sweetly angular melodies augmented by radiant harmonies and spare, pointed string arrangements. Clem Snide, a New York quartet named for the dour gumshoe in William Burroughs's Cities of the Red Night, released Your Favorite Music last year on Sire, and predictably the weird, whiskey-soaked observations of singer-songwriter Eef Barzelay failed to charm a mass audience. On The Ghost of Fashion (Spinart) Barzelay's quirks are even more pronounced--"Long Lost Twin" invokes Elvis Presley pining for his stillborn brother, and the somber "Ancient Chinese Secret Blues" turns the punch line of a classic TV commercial ("Calgon, take me away!") into a cry of existential despair. The pensive fiddle that colored Your Favorite Music is still in evidence, but so are banjo, vibes, and a few cinematic interludes of New Orleans funeral brass. The world of indie pop often seems like a huge game of follow the leader, so I'm always grateful when someone manages to get this blissfully lost. Friday, July 27, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Dennis Kleiman/Chris Buck.