Moe Berg in Pursuit of Analysis

by Mike Ross, Edmonton Express, February 21, 1997

Moe Berg doesn't call himself "the Woody Allen of rock 'n' roll" - but he has no problem if someone else does. "I'm a big Woody Allen fan," says the Pursuit of Happiness singer, who performs with his band at Rebar next Thursday night.

"I wouldn't necessarily want to compare myself to him, just because he's such a genius, but I think we have things in common: Yes, we're both neurotic and yes, we're perfectly willing to show everybody that we are, and also send it up for laughs.

"I'm perfectly willing to have people laugh at me and my neuroses. That's part of my shtick, I guess."

And it's all for real?

"Oh, it's real."

Only his analyst - who Berg sees once a week whenever he's not touring - knows for sure. But if you take his lyrics at face value, it becomes pretty clear that this former Edmontonian is a troubled man.

On every TPOH album since I'm An Adult Now became a hit in 1988, Berg has worn his angst on his sleeve, doing in three-minute pop tunes what Woody Allen takes entire feature films to do.

Unmistakable in their sound and attitude, Berg's songs are peppered with self-deprecating barbs, dry humor and cynical thoughts about what presumably drove him to seek therapy to begin with: relationships.

The band's latest album, The Wonderful World of the Pursuit of Happiness, is no exception. The tracks are all strung together to create one album-length song, which one could interpret as a musical cross-section of a typical love affair.

"It's a bit of weird thing," Berg explains, "because the first half of the album is real upbeat, but about two thirds of the way through, things start to go a little sour, because that's a pretty normal occurrence. Once the romance wears off, that's usually what happens. You usually make a turn there. Either the thing goes bad or you decide you really love the person."

Berg admits (needlessly) that he was in "a bad frame of mind" when he began writing the album, but that he forced himself to think happy thoughts.

"I don't necessarily write the best songs when I'm unhappy. Like `I hate you, I wish you'd get hit by a gas truck' - it's kind of childish stuff. It doesn't really make for a good song.

"So I thought, I'm just going to capitalize on every nice thing that happens to me. So whenever I felt good, I wrote about it. That became the foundation for the record. But then I thought, realistically, it doesn't really reflect my state of mind, so I decided about two-thirds of the way through the record that I'd write some songs that were more reflective of how I was actually feeling about things."

Hence the last song of the album, a peppy little number called The Truth:

"You don't even have a TV," Berg sings in his reedy, college-kid voice. "You like Bjork and Oasis. You're not smart enough for Shakespeare, but hip enough to think Merchant of Venice is racist. Now that the truth is out, I hated you first" and so on.

Berg admits that while he's less bitter about the music business than he was after I'm An Adult Now made life so complicated, he probably hasn't become any less neurotic with age.

"It's all relative," he says. "There's lot of people who have bigger problems than I have, but you have keep things in perspective. There's some things I should probably work on."

Copyright 1997, Sun Media, Canoe Limited Partnership. All rights reserved.

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