Permanent Green Light

  • Permanent Green Light
  • Permanent Green Light (Gasatanka/Rockville) 1992 
  • Against Nature (Gasatanka/Rockville) 1993 

After the Los Angeles power-pop combo Three O’Clock punched out with 1988’s Vermillion, singer/bassist Michael Quercio joined San Francisco’s Game Theory (with whom he’d previously played and produced numerous tracks). Although he and that group’s Scott Miller meant to form a new group altogether, Miller wound up leading the Loud Family and Quercio opted for LA, where he formed a new trio, christened Permanent Green Light after a watercolor hue immortalized in a song title by ’60s kooks the Godz.

The self-titled, self-produced (with a couple of buddies) mini-album is a lot like a (largely) keyboardless version of the Three O’Clock: an appealing high-energy pastiche of American- and English-style power pop featuring Quercio’s high, wry Angloid vocals and, occasionally, the somewhat sweeter voice of guitarist Matt Devine. The first four cuts are just swell, if lyrically odd (“We could just die/Like martyrs on a hillside”). The last three tracks are much less impressive, but include a reference to the band’s hard-to-figure infatuation (led by drummer-cum-Keith Moon fan Chris Bruckner) with J.K. Huysmans’ classic novel of fin de siècle decadence, Against Nature.

That book also supplied the title for the band’s next album, not to mention its artwork and some lyrical inspiration, notably on the Devine-penned “Portmanteau.” The first half of the album, starting with the hard charging, Sweet-ish “Honestly,” is enjoyably diverse fare — but then come variations that didn’t work even in the heyday of prog-rock. One terrific return to form, “(You & I Are the) Summertime,” and one successful deviation, Quercio’s trancey and acoustic “Fireman” (shades of Alex Chilton’s “Holocaust”), alternate with lesser cuts to fill out the disc. Overall, it’s an entertaining enough effort, with noteworthy melodic and vocal harmony influence by the Raspberries and (notwithstanding Permanent Green Light’s guitar-dominated sound) the Left Banke and Stories.

Devine departed in mid-’95, joining Medicine as second guitarist for what turned out to be that band’s final tour. By a weird coincidence — Medicine is nothing like PGL, especially onstage — Devine’s replacement, Bernard Yin (ex-Spindle), had also previously toured as second guitarist with Medicine. The group released a late-’95 7-inch (“Together” b/w “Queen of Market Street”) but an album promised for release the following year never happened.

[Jim Green]

See also: Loud Family, Medicine