It's probably best, when it comes to this LP, that only ardent alt-country fans knew who the Scud Mountain Boys were, much less bought the band's three LPs. Singer/songwriter Joe Pernice split up the Scuds in order to trade in the whole genre for this new, semi-solo direction: aside from his continued ability to compose indelible tunes and thoughtful relationship lyrics, there's no Scud Mountain to be scaled in this new province of Pernice. Guess what? In gaining a new start, he blows away his back catalog. Though Pernice's voice seems drenched in melancholic syrup, and it could stand to be a little more powerful, it's got the well-worn sincerity of someone who's a tad tired of falling well short of romantic revelry -- or at least the kind that lasts. And when this self-professed loner reveals that he and close collaborator Thom Monahan wanted to make "a bit of a downer," one can only respond "mission accomplished," and well-done. For Pernice actually makes his minor despondency beautiful; burbling beds of background strings tug at the heart like a sleepy kitten does a ball of twine or a mouse toy. Bits of brass don't bark, but instead sing sweetly, and everywhere there is pretty piano plinking, adding sparkling dimension, depth, color, and shade. For all his lyrical disquiet, the puzzling Pernice is just as in love with undeniably up, contrarily catchy, harmonically developed pop, the kind the late '60s offered. The singer admits a love of the pre-disco Bee Gees, Zombies, Beach Boys, and Chris Bell, and he's up to penning songs as subtle, graceful, challenging, and hopeful-sounding as such giants, which casts the opposing emotions of his words in a superbly clever light. Moldy clichés like "there's something about you" (the bouncy "Clear Spot") and "don't ever leave" (the swaying "Dimmest Star") are actually expressions of vulnerable distaste and frustration in his context -- you can all but see him shake his head, frown, and wince! From the crystal melodies of "Crestfallen," "Monkey Suit," and "Wait to Stop" and the slower, somber, greenhouse-gorgeous "Overcome by Happiness" and "Chicken Wire," this shy man has made a near-perfect modern songsmith swoon album.
AllMusic Review by Jack Rabid