Joe Pernice – It Feels So Good When I Stop

September 6, 2009

fsgwis_bigJoe Pernice just published a novel called “It Feels So Good When I Stop.” The story revolves around an unnamed protagonist/narrator, hiding out in his sister’s house on the Cape, off season, broke and getting around the mostly-deserted town on a girl’s bicycle called “Sweet Thunder” that dates back to that same sister’s tenth birthday. Break-ups, freak-outs, disappointments, and failures abound. “The stuff of day-to-day life,” you might say.

The cd of the same name goes along with the book; this “novel soundtrack” presents ten songs that figure into the story together with a few tracks of Pernice reading excerpts from text itself. What can I say? I like the song selection, ranging from Del Shannon’s “I Go To Pieces,” to Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me,” to The Dream Syndicate’s “Tell Me When It’s Over” (see below), to Sebadoh’s “Soul and Fire.” And I like the way that Pernice simplifies each tune and really makes it his own.

Also, a couple other things.

First, in the book, the narrator and his roommate Richie form a band called the Young Accuser, record acoustic versions of “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “It’s a Living Thing,” and join together in arguing that “irony is for chumps, and that irony in music is the worst kind of irony.” An interesting and useful philosophy, for which I have a great deal of sympathy. I’d love to get in the car, turn on 68 rko, and hear music like they used to play. Too bad those days are gone.

Second, in a key scene from the book that takes place at a Lou Barlow show, the narrator passes a Young Accuser’s tape along to an Sub Pop A&R rep, who later writes back that “one song in particular, ‘Black Smoke, No Pope,’ does not completely suck.” This song, an instrumental written by Pernice, can be found on the cd and is now also available as a Sub Pop single. Whoa! It’s life imitating art imitating life imitating art, in an ever-oscillating sequence like that generated by a higher-order difference equation with complex roots. A cheap trick, perhaps — but also another reason to love the entire project.

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