Since James Brown (sadly) is no longer with us, Joe Pernice may very well be the hardest-working man in show business. He led the Scud Mountain Boys and Chappaquiddick Skyline, and figures prominently in the Roger Lion Band and The New Mendicants. Pernice is also a respected poet and author, best known for the novels It Feels So Good When I Stop and Meat Is Murder. (That last book is inspired by Pernice’s teenage experiences with the Smiths album of the same name.) Some would consider the Pernice Brothers to be his crowning achievement, and I can’t disagree. With the help of his brother Bob and a revolving cast of under-the-radar indie-rock greats (such as former Lilys bassist Thom Monahan and fellow author-musician Ric Menck), Joe Pernice crafts perfect pop songs such as this one. If the ending harmonies don’t wow you, check your pulse!
So, December has arrived, and I’m not exactly in the proper frame of mind yet. Part of the problem has to do with the often-maudlin holiday music that assaults my senses every time I go into a store. (Don’t get me wrong, the classics are wonderful when done well. It’s the schmaltzy or overwrought versions that get to me.) So, as a public service, when the mood hits me, I will post a link to a lesser-known holiday gem.
I’m kicking off the proceedings with “A Very Sorry Christmas” by The New Mendicants. (I mentioned the band in this post last month.) This may be the most low-key supergroup in rock history, featuring Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake, Joe Pernice of the Pernice Brothers, and Sadies drummer Mike Belitsky (a veritable legend in Canadian rock circles). The band first released the Australia 2013 EP, featuring a harmony-laden cover of INXS’ “This Time” and several acoustic performances. “A Very Sorry Christmas” comes from the 2014 Ashmont Records full-length debut Into The Lime. It’s an unpretentious yet elegant record that, while evoking the best of all three bands, feels new.
But, as the great Marty di Bergi once said, enough of my yakkin’! Here it is:
On November 4, 1991, Creation Records released Bandwagonesque by the Glasgow band Teenage Fanclub. Bandwagonesque was chosen as “Album of the Year” in the SPIN magazine year-end poll, ahead of such releases as Nirvana’s Nevermind. Naturally, this has caused controversy in the 23 years that have elapsed since then, and I won’t get into that here. What I will say is that, of all the releases of 1991, I listen to Bandwagonesque most often. It is a shimmering and timeless beauty, balancing glorious harmonies, alternately chiming and grinding guitars, and clever songcraft.
Ah, but you want proof, discerning blog readers that you are. Sometimes I prefer its upbeat pop classics, such as “Metal Baby”:
I included an appreciation of the sweet “Sidewinder” in my essay “Dextrose Rides Again,” featured in the anthology Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, so I should play that, too:
Then there’s “Alcoholiday,” which reduces me to swooning or tears, depending on my mood. Legend has it that late, lamented Big Star frontman Alex Chilton also wept when he first heard it…it’s that gorgeous, folks:
Here is the major advantage that Teenage Fanclub has over Nirvana: the Fanclub exists to this day, with a long and varied song catalog, fun side projects (try the New Mendicants!), and occasional concert tours. You have to love that!