Personnel: Andrew Joslyn (strings); Greg Kramer (trombone).
Some established pop acts decide to dip their toes into electronic music in order to seem hip or update their image, but Joe Pernice did it for a very different reason -- someone asked him. Budo (aka Josh Karp), a producer whose background is in electronic music and hip-hop, contacted Pernice about remixing a track by Pernice's no-longer-extant band the Scud Mountain Boys, and the dialogue between the two led to an album-length collaboration, using the collective name Roger Lion. While Pernice isn't necessarily a guy who needed a writing partner, having penned a fistful of outstanding albums for the Pernice Brothers (as well as his side projects Chappaquiddick Skyline, Big Tobacco, and the New Mendicants), he and Budo turn out to be a good fit, with the cool, open surfaces of these tracks meshing nicely with Pernice's dour, smoky vocals and bittersweet lyrics that bring out the cynical side in just about any theme he chooses to investigate (which is hardly a surprise, given song titles like "The Adulterer's Mustache," "Redemption Is a Myth," and "Let's Divorce"). Though Budo's background is in electronic music, he's clearly put his skills to the service of Pernice's songwriting and adapts comfortably to his style; most of these tunes are built around percussion loops and keyboards, but Budo hasn't tried to make them into dance tracks, and the mood of Roger Lion is that of intelligent, polished, but playfully eccentric pop, with guitars and trumpets adding a classicist's touch, though Budo's production retains enough of his own personality that this consistently sounds like a meeting of two minds. Roger Lion isn't likely to alienate Pernice Brothers fans, but it does gently ease Joe Pernice's music into a new direction, and he and Budo should consider giving Roger Lion another go sometime in the future. ~ Mark Deming