Review of The Downward Road (Mercury/Polygram)

by Scott Isler, Rolling Stone, June 10, 1993

Three stars

So what if it's cheeky for a Canadian band to name itself after a phrase in the Declaration of Independence? Like that document, the Pursuit of Happiness believes you can have it all: slamming rhythms, fat guitar, harmonic daring and lyrics you'll still respect in the morning.

Fans won't be disappointed with The Downward Road, TPOH's third album (and first for Mercury). Singer-songwriter-guitarist Moe Berg continues his obsession with the varieties of male heterosexual erotic frustration: The Downward Road's unrelenting message is that love is hell. A Berg protagonist is horny ("Cigarette Dangles"), contemptible ("Nobody But Me," "Crashing Down") and self-pitying ("I'm Ashamed of Myself," "In Her Dreams"); if he manages a relationship in spite of these factors, then he's impotent ("Honeytime").

TPOH occasionally lightens up musically with acoustic-guitar-flavored rock sambas: "Pressing Lips" and "Heavy Metal Tears" feature winding melodies reminiscent of Todd Rundgren. Rundgren, who produced TPOH's first two albums, guests on "Love Theme From TPOH," an instrumental that makes a good case against the compact disc's expanded playing time.

Otherwise, there's remarkably little filler among The Downward Road's sixteen songs. One might wonder how the band's two women feel about mouthing Berg's males-only lyrics. But why carp? The Pursuit of Happiness turns misery into fun - guaranteed musical alchemy in an uncertain world.

Copyright 1993, Rolling Stone


The Downward Road