Pernice Brothers “Who Will You Believe”

New West Records, 2024

Pernice Brothers return with one of their very best albums.

The Pernice Brothers, led by songwriter and vocalist, Joe Pernice, return with their first album in five years. And true to form, it’s packed end-to-end with thoughtful, poignant and often witty lyrics combined with irresistible melodies and delicious guitar hooks that are sprinkled across the whole album. This is a collection of grown-up pop songs that bring to mind other great comparable songwriters like Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Alex Chilton, The Housemartins/Beautiful South, Teenage Fanclub, Joe Jackson, etc.

Joe Pernice has been releasing albums for over a quarter of a century and he’s a writer who clearly takes his craft seriously. It’s his hard-earned expertise as a songwriter that shines across this superb album. This latest release includes contributions from long-time bandmates, Bob Pernice, Peyton Pinkerton, Patrick Berkery, Laura Stein, Liam Jaeger and Michael McKenzie. The incomparable Neko Case, duets with Pernice on one of the standout tracks on the album, ‘I Don’t Need That Anymore’ and the Toronto-based choral group Choir! Choir! Choir! lend their considerable talents to the powerful and moving album closer, ‘The Purple Rain’.

The album opens with the title track, ‘Who Will You Believe’, a classic power pop delight with a rousing chorus and exuberance that never lets up. At the other end of the scale, delicately strummed acoustic guitar and some melancholic musings on a love gone wrong are set against some sumptuous lead guitar on ‘What We Had’. On ‘December In Her Eyes’, the gentle vocal, perfectly set against the strings and brass arrangements, combine to create a classic Philly soul sound. ‘Hey, Guitar’, sees Pernice celebrating a favourite guitar with some delicious rock rhythm and searing lead guitar work that brings to mind Matthew Sweet or Velvet Crush. But in truth, every track on the album has its charms and while there are songs here for almost every taste, it doesn’t feel like there’s a single weak one in the bunch.

Lyrically, it’s an album that, instead of raging against the dying of the light, looks at loss and getting old with a gentle, stoical acceptance. Sure, there’s plenty of sadness in these songs but there’s also a sense that Pernice might be more at ease than most with the march of time. As a result, despite the melancholy, the album still manages to strike a distinctly uplifting tone, and that’s most welcome in these difficult days.

Poet, novelist, screenwriter, and even recently a youth baseball coach, Joe Pernice can wear a lot of different hats, but first and foremost, he’s a masterful songwriter, and ‘Who Will You Believe’ is the work of a master craftsman at the very top of his game.


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