(3 out of 5)
To consider the debut solo album from former Be Your Own Pet vocalist Jemina Pearl a disappointment, it’s somewhat necessary that one actually be familiar with Pearl’s previous outfit. Although the Nashville spazz-garage band made a considerable impression upon a certain subset of punk-loving hipsters, BYOP never exactly became a household name. Said punk-loving hipsters will find much to dislike about BREAK IT UP, from the contained and relatively predictable song structures to the realization that Pearl’s spit-and-violence stage presence was less an intrinsic part of her personality than a reaction to the raucous explosion of sound provided by the other members of BYOP. However, there’s a big world beyond those hipsters; and while BREAK IT UP doesn’t exactly drip with “maturity,” it does put forward an attitude that’s smarter and more considered than the neck-snapping twists of Be Your Own Pet while managing to dip into the same barrel of underground influences. Pearl still has plenty of snarl (see “Selfish Heart,” “Ecstatic Appeal” or, really, pretty much any track on the album), but here it’s complemented by more accomplished musicianship and a production job from John Agnello (The Hold Steady, the Ponys, Nebula) that commendably balances rock bombast, punk attitude and artful experimentation. A balance that, it turns out, is pretty much what Jemina Pearl has been all about all along.