Pernice Brothers with the tyde at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Tuesday (July 22). $10.50. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
Even before I heard joe pernice sing Penthouse In The Woods, I knew from the title that the song had nothing to do with urban sprawl. More than any songwriter of his generation, Pernice communicates in a post-boomer code, and it's always made the Pernice Brothers' music much more resonant with people in his own age group and social stratum.
You don't need to be part of that culture to appreciate the neatly arranged tunes and emotionally charged performances of the Pernice Brothers' recent Yours, Mine & Ours (Ashmont/ Outside), but it would definitely help make sense of the lyrical allusions and sonic references.
T hose who grew when New Order songs were being played non-stop on CFNY (the Edge 102.1) will have a very different response to a Pernice Brothers song like Sometimes I Remember than most people under the age of 20. There's just something in the way the bass and guitar work together that suggests New Order, and those who know will make the connection.
"That song is definitely an homage to New Order," confirms Pernice from his Boston home. "They were a very important band for me. I really love their songs, and so does everyone else in the group.
"Doing interviews, I've noticed that anyone over a certain age immediately picks up on the New Order thing and is all over it. Others, mostly the younger people, seem to have no idea, or at least when that song comes up there's no mention of New Order, which leads me to believe that they don't get it."
The Pernice Brothers haven't constructed some brain-teaser of a musical puzzle, but getting the reference points adds considerably to your enjoyment of their music.
It's not essential to know that the Yours, Mine & Ours album title is taken from the 1968 film staring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda on which the Brady Bunch TV series was based. Yet knowing that Pernice named the album for what purports to be a feelgood movie and turns out to be anything but may help you see through the disc's upbeat vibe.
The title also makes a sly reference to the album's most controversial song, Baby In Two. While it may be obvious to many that the child-bisecting imagery central to Pernice's song is drawn directly from the Bible, some people unfamiliar with the Old Testament parable (see 1 Kings, Chapter 3, Verses 16-18) - in which Solomon uses a sword to establish who is the real mother of a child - have evidently taken the image at face value and missed the whole point about compromise.
"Some people think the song is about violence against children, but it has nothing to do with that at all. The biblical story about Solomon's judgment came up in conversation, and it occurred to me that no one had used it in song before, so I thought it would be cool to use it myself. The dark aspect of the story certainly lends itself to my music.
"But when our album was coming out in Ireland, some people at radio stations were troubled by what they perceived as 'violent content.' As a result, I had to prepare a special press release about Baby In Two.
"Once I explained the biblical reference, the song suddenly became acceptable. It was, like, 'Well, as long as it's in the Bible, then it's OK,' which is kind of interesting in itself."