pernice brothers – overcome by happiness

it’s a long way to fall when you find out that it never was

i have never known anyone else i’ve ever come across who likes or even knows the pernice brothers. this i have never understood. i don’t even recall why i picked up overcome by happiness – i think i might have read something somewhere and vaguely recalled it when i saw a modest poster in big star records in rundle street. this was one of my earlier purchases, occurring when it was released in 1998 (i was in uni and not working, so rarely had enough money to buy music – the first 20 or so albums are treasured possessions).

relative to most other things in the collection, this holds a special place for more than one reason, and seems to stand out. in fact, it’s taking its place amongst the best albums. sure, it’s kind of pop – with anti-pop content. i suspect that’s why i love it so much. it’s beautifully written and constructed. the physiology of the songs is unlike most others. i mean, rock pushes adrenaline through one’s body; and i still can’t understand or explain why the dirty three make me cry. but to feel the uplift of the gorgeous melodies here (instrumental and vocal) counterbalanced by absorbing exactly what is stated through the lyrics… emotional doesn’t begin to describe it.

and in the midst of all that, you get a lyric like: do you think you might scrape your life together just in time to find you’ve got no peace of mind, when everybody wants a piece of your pretty white arse [ass].

singing along with joe pernice is one of my great joys, as outlined right there, regardless of how desperately sad most of his lyrics are (or at least were, back then). i suspect people might think there’s a kind of kitschness to it, layered over depression. there are a lot of strings; there are some turns of phrase that seem contrived. and yet there is unbelievable heartache. all these elements make this a very hard band to describe; particularly why they are so good.

it all made complete sense to me from the start, but the pieces fell together perfectly when i tracked down joe pernice’s entry in the 33 1/3 mini book series as soon as it was available in 2003. in fact, his was the fifth one released, which amazes me in hindsight. he wrote about the smiths album meat is murder. it’s an honest, somewhat brutal and reflective piece that intrigued me – an american fan of one of the most british bands you could imagine. you hear it in clear spot here.

it seems ironic and a little derivative that one of my happiest memories associates to seeing the pernice brothers perform at the grace emily in adelaide back in 2001. it was a smaller version of the band, partly dictated by the size of the venue, which i have noted before. the memory actually originates from the support act for the night, a local band called tuscadero. i was wearing a bright purple big star t-shirt – for the record store, not the band; though the logo was shared. they knew that, but they pointed it out and dedicated a cover of september gurls anyway. imagine a more delightful moment!

in person, the whole experience topped off the journey. in some ways this is mood music of the most extreme order. you have to be prepared for both the intensity of the orchestration and the depth of the sentiment. but if you can get to that point, your reward is more wealth than you can imagine.

i’m waiting for the wait to stop, but i could not wait my whole life for you


7 responses to “pernice brothers – overcome by happiness

  1. I didn’t understand why you liked this band until feeling home sick in Cambodia. I bought a copy and was blown away. I still hum overcome by happiness when I feel a little low

  2. ha ha! stealing. um, yes, a poster was stolen from a BPB gig (actually, two were – i’d like to make a short film about it). it was the tour that didn’t seem to make it to adelaide, and the theft occurred instead at tilley’s in canberra – december 2001.

  3. actually, the pernice show was 2002 :/ as for the bonnie billy gig, that’s a good question lulu! see, i have a memory from that gig as well, even though i can’t remember the “when”. we stood most of the night in that funny little doorway between the odd “pool room” and the stage area, against the outside wall. that drunk dude came up and hassled the hell out of us for the whole show, constantly trying to talk to us between songs! ugh. i ended up with his phone number on a receipt he scabbed from somewhere. i don’t even know where he would have found a pen! needless to say those numbers remained forever undialled in combination… but let me see if i have the ticket from the show still… nope. it was before 2000 because i was still living at home with the olds!

    • Oh yes drunk dude. .. and you did steal a poster there with Will watching didn’t you? Love your work

  4. Aah the Grace Emily… Only good memories. You have an unbelievable memory, or do you keep a diary? If you had asked me when we saw them I would have had no idea. When did we see Bonnie Prince play there? x

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