Chappaquiddick Skyline - S/T (Sub Pop)
by Courtney Knopf
"I hate my life," laments Joe Pernice in the opening moments of the first
offering from Chappaquiddick Skyline. So clearly we know we’re in for a
rollercoaster of happiness. No, not really. If you’re looking for fun,
mindless pop music, Chappaquiddick Skyline is not the place to find it. But
if you’re into moody, beautiful, feeling sorry for yourself music, Joe
Pernice is your man. In 1998, along with brother Bob Pernice, the former
front man of the Scud Mountain Boys formed the Pernice Brothers and released
Overcome By Happiness, one of the most beautiful, lushly orchestrated
pop albums of that year.
Chappaquiddick Skyline covers a lot of the same territory explored by
Pernice on Overcome By Happiness, but does so on a smaller scale.
While he is joined by a most of his Pernice Brothers bandmates as well as
quite a few other friends, there are no 9-piece string orchestras and no
Bacharach-esque flugelhorns to be found in the arrangements. This is a much
more spare endeavor, a lo-fi journey that was recorded at home entirely on
an 8-track, but the result is just as praise-worthy. And the beauty of this
album lies in its simplicity.
"Courage Up" is a Beatle-esqe pop song that has the most noticeably dense
arrangement on the album, including an organ. The electric guitar work by
Joe Harvard is especially reminiscent of The Beatles’ "Something." "The Two
Of You Sleep, " a sad song about a man watching his ex-girlfriend asleep
with someone else at a party, is a very folky lament that is a direct
descendant of Simon & Garfunkle’s "For Emily Whenever I May Find Her." But
for all of this comparison to other artists, Joe Pernice is a supremely
talented songwriter and musician in his own right. The starkly seductive
"Nobody’s Watching" is comprised of nothing but an acoustic guitar while
Pernice’s lyrics wrap themselves around you in a dreamy lullabye.
While Chappaquiddick Skyline is not the second Pernice Brothers
not quite a side project either. It seems to fall into a grey area,
considering many of these songs ("Solitary Swedish Houses," "Courage Up")
would have fit comfortably on Overcome By Happiness while it’s clear
that a few of them (most notably the sampled drum loops of the sublime
"Leave Me Alone") would have seemed out of place. While the album has a
slightly scattered focus, that seems to work for it rather than against it.
I have a feeling that Chappaquiddick Skyline is like a vacation home to Joe
Pernice; it’s somewhere he can go when his mind drifts from his main
projects and completely be himself. And walk around in his underwear if he
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