Happiness is a new album

by Jane Stevenson, Toronto Sun, December 12, 1996

The Pursuit of Happiness is more than just the name of the veteran Toronto band that Moe Berg fronts.

It was a recent obsession documented by the singer-songwriter-guitarist on TPOH's latest and fifth release, The World According To ...

"I was having a very bad time the year that I was writing the songs for this record," says Berg, putting back some caffeine in his neighborhood coffee shop.

"And so whenever any nice thing happened or it was a nice moment, I wrote a song about it. The last thing I wanted to do was drag that unhappiness out for public display."

Still, Berg , who -- along with TPOH's three other members -- plays Lee's Palace tomorrow night, admits the record had "a life of its own. So, as all things do, as it gets near the end it degenerates."

Thus you move from the opening track, Tara, in which Berg celebrates, "What a wonderful kiss receiver, I'm a firm believer in Tara," to the last song, The Truth, which ends with: "You say you hated me now but baby I hated you first."

Yikes.

"They're not love songs," says Berg, even of the more optimistic tracks. "Very important distinction. These are romantic songs because love is a very complicated project. It's a project. Romance is just like when you first met someone and they're perfect. In one of the songs, I deify the person. I called her a perfect God. This is the thing you typically do when you're infatuated with somebody. But love is a messier, stickier proposition. It doesn't really lend itself to upbeat pop songs. When you start talking about real love, that's like a novel, that's not a song."

Berg writes of three actual women -- Tara, Carmalina and Natalie -- on the album, but says he's not sure if any of them know.

"Maybe they do or don't. I'm not really that close to many of them," he says with a nervous laugh.

Either way, the album's hilarious first single, She's The Devil, has quickly become a singalong anthem for anyone who's ever kissed a few frogs on the way to finding their princess or prince.

One chorus goes: "She's so wild, and you're so normal, She's Sean Young and you're Deborah Norville."

But the real clincher is the video -- currently in heavy rotation on MuchMusic -- which features the band members (including Berg in a dark wig and moustache) dressed up as members of the now defunct CBC-TV program Hymn Sing, juxtaposed with scantily-clad, late night, phone sex operators.

"The song is sort of like this very aggressive song," says Berg. "It's calling this woman the devil and we just thought what a better setting to put it in than a real church group setting, a very pious setting. The visual delivery becomes the exact opposite of what the actual musical and vocal delivery is."

Killer first single aside, the entire 14 songs on The World clock in at a lean 36 minutes and flow from one song to the next.

Berg says he was trying to accomplish two things by keeping it short and intertwined -- force people to listen to the entire album (a la the Beatles, Jethro Tull and The Tubes ) and defy CD players.

"So one of the problems that you'll instantly find with the record is that the indexing is all off, so if you try to put it in shuffle it'll just make no sense," he say with a chuckle. "It'll sound really, really weird, so we're sort of thumbing our nose, to some extent, at CD technology. There's sort of an old school approach to it.

"We want you to listen to it in the order we put it in."

Copyright 1996, Sun Media, Canoe Limited Partnership. All rights reserved.


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