Sometimes the room makes all the difference: When the Scud Mountain Boys performed a reunion show in the Club Room at Pearl Street in January 2012, the subtleties of their songs often got lost in the grotto-like atmosphere. The Scuds returned to Northampton â once the band’s hometown â Sunday night for a pair of shows in the Parlor Room, where the close, intimate feel of the space seemed to make the group’s somber songs more vivid, and to accentuate the very dry, very understated humor that frequently lurks in the background.
This time around it was more than a reunion show: the Scud Mountain Boys in July released “Do You Love the Sun,” their first new album in 16 years. Songs from the new LP made up a fair portion of the group’s 15-song, 75-minute set, which surveyed desperate characters living bleak lives on tunes built on a foundation of Joe Pernice’s acoustic guitar and subtle bass lines from Stephen Desaulniers.
Pernice sang lead for most of the set, picking out chords and singing in mournful tones on opener “Silo.” Two songs later, Pernice and Desaulniers locked into tight vocal harmonies on a sharp version of “Freight of Fire,” accented by pedal steel guitar licks from Bruce Tull. The first new song of the set, the quiet and doleful “Drew Got Shot,” was actually a tune the band wrote during its first incarnation in the ’90s, for what Pernice described as a never-realized World War II-based side project called the Lower G.I.s.
Mandolin player Tom Shea switched to drums for the title track from the new album, and Desaulniers took lead vocals on another new song, “Orphan Girl,” a three-quarter time tune that opened quietly before a wash of steel guitar and drums came crashing through. The set also featured old favorites “Penthouse in the Woods” and “Lift Me Up,” which was quieter than the blustery electric-guitar soaked version on the Scuds’ 1996 album “Massachusetts.” After a handful more new songs, including Desaulniers’ lead turn on “Crown of Thorns,” an instrumental cover of the “Theme From Midnight Cowboy” and “Double Bed,” the band closed the show with its version of Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.”