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Rhythm & Views

Pernice Brothers

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Live a Little is in many ways a backwards Pernice Brothers record. First of all, it reaches back to singer/songwriter Joe Pernice's Scud Mountain Boys days; it's a little bit country, what with the organ and guitar solo at the end of "Somerville" and the mostly acoustic "PCH One," as well as the inclusion of "Grudge F***," originally a Scud song.

The songs are also inverted; most Pernice Brothers songs start out with sweeping melodies and hooks that have you entranced before the lyrics even start, but this time around, it's the ends of the songs that are more memorable. The guitar doesn't start working its magic on "Automaton" until a minute and a half in, and the '70s-style groove of "Zero Refills" kicks in at minute three. Even the strong "Cruelty to Animals" doesn't show its true colors until the chorus ("alouette, gentille alouette, head to toe so thoroughly until we're both dismembered").

Every Pernice Brothers record is gorgeous and smart, and Live a Little is definitely both, but that's not enough for a band with a back catalog of records that are gorgeous, smart and awe-inducing. The payoffs at the end of the songs on Live a Little just don't measure up. Live a Little lacks the epic textures of previous records; halfway through, I had "How to Live Alone" from 2003's Yours, Mine and Ours stuck in my head. When that kind of thing happens, you know that the song that slipped in is a good one, and the one you're actually listening to leaves something to be desired.

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