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By Frank Olson
Now that we know that The Pernice Brothers can make an album as solid as Live a Little, it’s time for them to show that they can do better. Live a Little would be passable as a debut album, but one expects 10-year veterans to develop a more distinctive (or at least less wussy) sound than the one on display here. And there is definitely only one sound on Live a Little; for an album only 41 minutes long, it sure overstays its welcome. Younger bands ranging from The Shins to Of Montreal perform the same type of throwback pop, but do so with far greater playfulness and invention.
Live a Little
does boast a handful of truly catchy songs (“Automaton,” “B.S. Johnson,” “Conscience Clean” and “Lightheaded” ), but the overall tone is so light and chirpy that the album seems to evaporate as you listen to it. Most of the songs are hampered by tinny orchestral accompaniment that sounds as if it was created on Casio keyboards (though real musicians were involved). It is hard to tell whether the fault lies in the unengaged performances of the session musicians, the uninspired arrangements of Joe Pernice or the airy production of Michael Deming, though I suspect it is some combination of the three. Live a Little isn’t bad, per se, but it does virtually nothing to set itself apart from (or above) the rest of the albums coming out this month.