Joe Pernice spent the mid-90s fronting the much acclaimed Scud Mountain Boys, but I forgive him. He was young, all the other kids were doing the alt-country thing, and maybe he needed to purge the dourness from his system before pursuing something more worthwhile. Since he re-formed the Pernice Brothers in ’97 (he and brother Bob had played under that name in the 80s), the Byrdsian ideal he’s chasing has been more McGuinn-Clark than Gram Parsons, and on the third and latest Pernice Brothers full-length, Yours, Mine & Ours (Ashmont), he ups the tempos enough to shake off any lingering accusations of sad-sackism. The lyrics still wallow occasionally (“I hope this letter finds you crying / It would feel so good to see you cry”), but the mood is more calm than plaintive. Mood, in any case, is subordinate to sheer sensation–the skin prickle that results when a single chord is strummed at half time to open up a chorus, or when Pernice’s voice tiptoes warily on the precipice of falsetto. Tradition-minded pop goosed by studio trickery is the order of the day on Warren Zanes’s debut album, Memory Girls (Dualtone). The former Del Fuegos guitarist settles for merely pretty where Pernice accepts nothing less than beautiful, and his songs are specific stylistic re-creations: a little Rubber Soul-era McCartney on “If You Could Stay,” a Parisian-cafe feel on “Did You Recognize My Love?” His impressionistic lyrics probably won’t offer much insight into relationships even for his ex-girlfriends, but it doesn’t matter–Zanes keeps the tone so breezy that when soul horns or string sections break in out of nowhere, they sound less like pushy affectations than playful tangents. Sunday, July 20, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Hannah Thompson, Richard Howard.