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Pursuit of Happiness’ satire; Ofra Haza sings in English; Rob Base’s red-hot rap

One of the odder concert co-billings of the season is the tour which has the Pursuit of Happiness, a punchy Canadian rock ‘n’ roll quintet, opening shows for teen heartthrobs Duran Duran (including stops Feb. 2-3 at the Universal Amphitheatre). It’s a cinch that when the band plays its current rock radio anthem, “I’m an Adult Now,” most of the audience on hand for the headliner won’t be able to relate--at least not on a literal level.

In fact, the ideal headliner for singer/songwriter Moe Berg and his band to pursue on the road would probably be the Replacements. Both groups play feisty, strongly melodic hard rock, filtering the pop of their teen years (the ‘70s) through punk. And both the Pursuit’s Berg and the Replacements’ Paul Westerberg draw lyrical conflict out of having trouble acting their age--mourning the passing of those carefree teen years even as they obsess at times on looming old age.

“I’m an Adult Now” is “the story of having a certain melancholy about the passing of your youth--but at the same time making fun of young people,” said Berg, calling from chilly Toronto. “Because you have the experience to realize that there are a lot of stupid things about being a young person, but at the same time you’re not in any hurry to grow up and are sort of lamenting the fact that you have to.”

One of the pitfalls of rock musicians growing up, as Berg sees it, is the dawning of a sense of “responsibility,” as in “social consciousness.” Berg is unapologetic about the fact that much of the material on the Pursuit’s “Love Junk"--one of last year’s most impressive debut albums, produced by Berg’s ‘70s hero Todd Rundgren--candidly focuses on the title subject and its attendant concerns while so many of his contemporaries discover the Third World and such.

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In the album’s best song, “Consciousness Raising as a Social Tool,” Berg gently satirizes the “cause” mentality as a means for fulfilling the need to belong, believe or even just get dates.

“There’s nothing wrong with heightening people’s awareness about issues, but most of these guys (in rock) have never even been to college, and all of a sudden they have the answer for the problem in South Africa. I consider myself of only medium intellect, so I’m not gonna tackle any subject that people spend 30, 40 years every day of their life trying to figure out the answer to. Just because I have a forum as a rock musician and kids listen to us play doesn’t necessarily mean that we have anything meaningful to say about a lot of different subjects. Your responsibility as a songwriter is to write good songs, and a bad song about South Africa is the same as a bad song about baby food.”


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