CD Reviews


Pernice Brothers Goodbye, Killer (Ashmont)

After 2001’s perfect and much celebrated gem The World Won’t End, Joe Pernice seemed to struggle a bit in delivering the Big Star-styled pop hooks, instead heading in a moodier Britpop direction with 2005’s Discover a Lovelier You, followed by the dead-end, soft-rock orchestrations of 2006’s Live a Little. Since then, Pernice has been quiet, suggesting a back-to-the-woodshed period. He emerges with a return to the classic open-chord song constructions that dazzled critics a decade ago. A formally trained poet, Pernice presents his best lyrics—at once clever and heartfelt—to date, particularly in the driving rocker “Jacqueline Susann” and the furious Neil Young & Crazy Horse tribute, “F**cking and Flowers.” Goodbye, Killer is a killer summer pop record, even if some critics (like this one) could do without the Western-swing spoof of “We Love the Stage,” which sounds like filler. ★★★☆☆


Teenage Fanclub Shadows (Merge)

The three gifted songwriter/guitarists who comprise Scottish alt-rock band Teenage Fanclub have always displayed a kinder, gentler, romantic side. Never before, though, has it been so completely realized as it is in Shadows, the band’s ninth album and second for the Merge label. The sunny “Baby Lee” has everything we’ve come to love about Fanclub—sweet lyrics, falsetto vocals, layers of strummed Telecasters, and a “chamber” arrangement replete with strings and glockenspiel. The songs never turn coy or limp-wristed; as the album’s title implies, there is a melancholy strain that runs throughout, and there’s enough simmering firepower bubbling under the surface of tracks such as “Dark Clouds” and “Shock and Awe” to keep power-pop aficionados hooked. Irresistible but never saccharine, Fanclub is one of the few grunge-era bands to have developed into real group of artists. ★★★★☆


Sia We Are Born (Monkey Puzzle)

Sia was all set to prosper in Starbucks music sampler CDs amid the muffins and java, her soulful electronic-pop making her an ideal candidate for the NPR crowd. To the subculture’s dismay, Sia dug up her old Madonna records and set to work on the best dance-party album since, well, True Blue. The funky, guitar-centered “The Fight” hits like a brilliant but unused Thriller-era track worthy of the late Gloved One. “You’ve Changed,” meanwhile, has a buoyant ’80s radio smash vibe that’s hard to achieve—unless your first and last name happens to be Duran. “Clap Your Hands” cops a generous and giddy feel off Lady Ciccone. Less a craft exercise and more a reach toward positive energy, We Are Born will make you feel young again, whether your angst stems from inhabiting a teenage wasteland or a senior home. ★★★★☆

Suggested Next Read

Born to Brawl


Born to Brawl

Everybody has an opinion on Dana White. Just bring up his name next time you are out on the town and see what happens. “Guy’s an idiot,” “ignorant loudmouth,” “super nice guy,” “one of the most real people in Vegas,” “totally down to earth” and the age-old classic, “asshole.” Those are just a few samples from people I encountered in the run-up to this interview, but one conclusion is clear: The jury is all over the place, except in the middle.