Pernice Brothers Live a Little

Though it’s picture-perfect pop music, the Pernice Brothers’ Live a Little does tend to come across a bit staid in spite of its ambitious arrangements. With "Somerville,” Joe Pernice sounds like he’s been listening to a lot of Elvis Costello, though the sound of the band is not as raw as the Attractions. On "Cruelty to Animals,” Pernice’s wordplay is more pronounced, as the bold, rocking intro melts away, highlighting his Andy Partridge-esque vocal and deceptively jaunty melody. "Automaton” is a breezy pop song but its swelling guitar hook kicks ass unexpectedly. Much like Robert Pollard, Pernice possesses a Britpop sensibility, which lingers throughout the record, particularly on "Microscopic View” and "How Can I Compare.” Such songs are lush and orchestral, featuring layers of instrumentation that congeal into something gentle and laidback. Even upbeat numbers like "B.S. Johnson” have a manic, bursting quality but are tempered and contained by their production and Pernice’s reassuringly calm voice. Though it alludes to the Clash lyrically and has vague musical references to Motown, "High as a Kite” is quite serene, while "Grudge F***” is the album’s most Beatles-esque moment, with bombastic string sections and rolling guitar solos pushing its silly carnal chorus forward. All of the elements of a grand record are present on Live a Little but for all the impassioned playing, it’s a little too easy to ignore. (Ashmont)