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Jemina Pearl at the G-Spot Nov. 2

October 30, 2009
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For four years and two albums Nashville’s Be Your Own Pet tore through garage punk with the sort of brashness that only teenagers can deliver. The quartet delivered everything at the frenetic clip of young people trying to live before they got old or the Jolt cola ran out—whichever came first. The blonde-haired personality at the eye of this tornado was the howling Jemina Pearl, 200 lbs. of don’t-give-a-shit strained into what looked like a 90-lbs. soaking-wet package of flailing energy. She put the verbal attitude behind the band’s sonic fury, defiantly challenging “Look us in the centre of our eyes/ And tell me when I’m going to die” (“Thresher’s Flail”), justifying impudence with “All because all because all because/ Because because because because” (“Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle”), or not really lamenting teenage homicide with the pithy ” If only what you wrote in my yearbook was true/ Then I wouldn’t be stuck in fucking Cell Block 2″ (the immortal “Becky”).

Everybody’s teen years end abruptly, and BYOP called it quits in August 2008. Since, Pearl relocated to Brooklyn and unleashed her solo debut, Break It Up, Oct. 6. Co-written by BYOP drummer John Eatherly (who also supplied the lion’s share of the instruments, with a little help from Awesome Color guitarist Derek Stanton, Thurston Moore, TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, and Iggy Pop), Break doesn’t try to rebottle BYOP’s manic insouciance, but don’t fear that young adulthood has tamed Pearl.

The music has matured somewhat, but not adversely. Where sheer energy used to push everything forward behind Pearl, now Eatherly puts actual hooks and melodies behind her still-arresting throat. “Ecstatic Appeal” moves along at brisk new-wave-y gallop, while “Nashville Shores” explodes with a power-pop guitar shimmer and harmonizing on the chorus. And “I Hate People,” Pearl’s duet with a crooning Iggy Pop, is damn near girl-group pop, a love song about bonding over mutual loathing of pretty much everybody: “I was walking around wanting to die/ Thought I wouldn’t make it through the night if I tried/ But I saw you standing there/ In your torn leather jacket and dark brown hair.”

It’s the sort of cheekiness that seeped into Pearl’s lyrics on BYOP’s 2008 sophomore outing Get Awkward, but the now 22-year-old doesn’t stagnate in brattiness. In fact, on Break‘s best songs she’s trying to reconcile adulthood’s caution with youth’s vigor, knowing perfectly well they don’t jibe. “My hands smell like cheeseburgers and cigarettes,” she sings on the pop-rocking “Retorgrade.” “On the tips of my fingers I count my regrets/ I try to accept who I’ve become/ Because I’ve done things I would have never done.”

It’s a conflicted stance best captured on the infectious “Band on the Run,” an anxious rocker that features some of Pearl’s best peals here. Given her irreverent streak, it’s hard not to suspect that she’s poking fun of the Wings 1973 album/song of the same name, Paul McCartney’s biggest hit since leaving the Beatles. McCartney’s song was about liberation; Pearl’s merely starts off that way. Her first verse ends, “breaking free is going to taste real sweet,” before she gleefully sneers into the chorus:

gonna burn every bridge down
on our way outta town
ain’t got time to linger
wave goodbye with a middle finger

That freedom becomes a mere mirage in the sing-songy bridge, where Pearl muses:

Wave to your broken dreams, buried in dirt
buried in dirt
all the roads lead to memories, memories that hurt
memories that hurt
we used to be such good kids
we used to be such good kids
we used to be such good kids
we used to be such good kids

before she goes on to decry the new future, with its rational compromises and “no more friends that we can trust.” The entire album doesn’t hit such wise skepticism, but “Band on the Run” is a tremendous three-minute poke at adulthood’s stark realities, the sound of knowing what’s coming up and not wanting to settle for it at all.

Jeminan Pearl plays the G Spot Nov. 2 at 8:30 p.m. with Islands. $12 advance, $14 door.

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