Overcome By Happiness
Overcome by Happiness is more than simply a pretty, mellow pop record. It’s a bold, often dramatic revamping of Pernice’s artistic sound and vision, a gigantic leap from his work with the Scud Mountain Boys, the Northampton, Massachusetts-based quartet who quietly carved out a unique place in the ever-growing pantheon of neo-country outfits such as Uncle Tupelo, the Bottle Rockets, Son Volt, and Wilco. But where the three albums recorded by the Scuds—the 1995 Chunk-issued Pine Box and Dance the Night Away, now available on Sub Pop’s reissue The Early Year; and Massachusetts, the group’s ’96 debut for Sub Pop—were minimalist-country constructions presented with few frills and even fewer overdubs, Overcome by Happiness is a relatively lavish effort adorned with sweeping orchestrations, plaintive piano fills, and soaring horn work. The twelve songs, all Pernice originals, transcend the boundaries of alterna-country and span the stylistic gamut between his traditionalist work with the Scuds and the melancholic power-pop romanticism of the Raspberries, Big Star, and Runt-era Todd Rundgren.
After debuting the Pernice Brothers in January ‘97 with a Sub Pop single, Pernice gathered together his guitar-playing brother Bob and some friends from area bands (including New Radiant Storm King guitarist Peyton Pinkerton and, from the Lilys, bassist/producer Thom Monahan, drummer Aaron Sperske, and pianist/string arranger/producer Mike Deming) and headed to Hartford, Connecticut’s Studio .45 to lay down tracks for Overcome by Happiness. A stylistic departure that bristles with a sense of discovery and liberation, the album moves gracefully from lilting pop gems such as “Crestfallen” to the lover’s kiss-off “Clear Spot”; from the pulsating riff that propels the wistfully cynical title track to the gloriously beautiful “Wait to Stop,” a string- laden weeper that is something of a throwback to the complex studio concoctions of Brian Wilson’s best work with the Beach Boys. Overcome by Happiness, with its conspicuous lack of country leanings, is an astoundingly brave move for someone so critically adored by the alternative set. It is both a gorgeous and lyrical album. Say hello to the Pernice Brothers.