There seems to be very little in this world less in vogue at present than plain, pretty, cleanly produced, independent pop music. Apparently no one clued in Joe Pernice--leader of Scud Mountain Boys, Chappaquiddick Skyline, and, most famously, Pernice Brothers--who recently dropped his ninth set of literate, painstaking, and obsessively agreeable indie pop, to what seems like little more than subtly expanding indifference. It may be partly due to bad timing, or the fact that Pernice and Brothers refuse to disrupt the fanatical equilibrium that has consistently propelled the songwriter's many projects--but in spite of the fact that Discover a Lovelier You contains some of Pernice's most accomplished songs to date, it's hard to muster more than an emphatic yawn for the material.
In the seven years (!) that have passed since I first fell for the Pernice Brothers' baroque-pop debut, I've reluctantly met a sort of looming apathy with each of his subsequent, many-monikered releases. This growing cloud of dread has nothing to do with the failure of Pernice's well-publicized pop craft, of course--on the contrary, Pernice has remained a consistently excellent craftsman through all of his many releases. But as with a lot of indierock composed with pop palatability at its forefront, Pernice's consistency dulls the finer qualities of his songwriting. It's inappropriately affirmative to afford this brand of digestible pop the common, soft-handed critique of "too perfect"--though the Pernice Brothers' albums do all stink of operating room sterility. While Pernice's talent insures that the band's music transcends that of most of his clean-pop contemporaries, it's difficult to stay any more engaged in a meal that presents its meat so plainly. With the Teflon production sensibility of bassist/producer Thom Monahan (whom you'll soon be blaming for Devendra Banhart's flaccid, soon-to-be released full length, Cripple Crow) looming large, Discover a Lovelier You leans on cleanliness in favor of creativity, and--as with most of the band's records before it--ultimately fails Joe Pernice's heart-rending songcraft by giving listeners nothing to hold onto.