needs more demons?

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Joyce Linehan & Joe Pernice: Pernice to Me

20 Jul 2010 · No Comments

I’m probably over-thinking my reaction to this book.

Joe Pernice, if you don’t know the name, has one of the most honeyed voices in all of indie rock and a heaping helping of songwriting skill, displayed for the past several years/records in his band Pernice Brothers. Joyce Linehan is Pernice’s partner in Ashmont Records. This book is literally culled from Joyce Linehan’s twitter stream, mostly focusing on communication to and from Joe, about the business of being in a touring/recording band (although Massachusetts residents might note a few poignant moments not directly related to Ashmont Records).

I read Pernice to Me compulsively in a single sitting — not hard to do, it’s short — and while it certainly entertained me, it left me a little sad.

Pernice to Me has a mean side in more than one sense of the word. I couldn’t help but be reminded of seeing excerpts of Johan Sebastian Bach’s correspondence with the great composer whinging about shillings and farthings. And if you’d have a mental image of Pernice as a “gentle, fragile sad sack”, that you want to keep intact, you should avoid Pernice to Me, because that’s the perception that Linehan explicitly sets out to destroy. She presents Pernice as epically grumpy, a quintessentially high-maintenance and self-involved artist.

But the format of Pernice to Me dramatically reinforces its artificiality. It may be generally acknowledged that reality show editors can paint any cast member as either the villain or the long-suffering hero, but when the stuff from which a work is assembled is exclusively 140-character-or-less soundbites, it really hammers home how very much the selection of exactly which tweets to include or exclude affects the shape of the work as a whole. I was also keenly aware how much I was lacking anything that might put the tweets in context: how long Pernice had been on the road, how much sleep Linehan had, what tone of voice the words were spoken in (many of the tweets are transcribed telephone exchanges).

It also implicitly makes the point that the music industry wasn’t wrong back in the days of Napster: the sky really is falling. Something is wrong with the picture if an artist with all of Pernice’s gifts finds it difficult to eke out a living. And if releasing one of the first books based on a Twitter stream helps Ashmont get some media attention and helps Pernice sell a few more records, more power to them.

needs more demons? not exactly.

Tags: autobiography · business · l-author · p-author · p-title · rock

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