Jack Penate - Matinee (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Jack Penate

Matinee (2008)


With a press sheet that name-checks Hall & Oates, it's not surprising to hear the first song start out with some overly energetic and polished sounding pop music. "Spit at Stars," however, runs the border of what's tolerable. Jack's thick English accent pops and spouts out words with high pressure, like a tea kettle steaming. The tune is toe-tapping and upbeat with fast strumming guitars, walking bassline, and some fast drum fills. But I can't stop thinking about the line in A Mighty Wind when Harry Shearer's character likens the New Mainstreet Singers to a toothpaste commercial. I imagine that Mr. Penate might have some shiny teeth, even for a Londoner.

The rest of the album follows a similar approach, whether he's trying to tackle something with a titch of rockabilly, ska, or blue-eyed soul. His vocals always sound forced, like Phil Spector's got a gun to his head and screaming at him to sing. The production is so polished that the songwriting seems simple and unremarkable.

It's when Penate slows down that there's a man behind the music. This touch of humanity shows through on "We Will Be Here," a lazy ballad that features swelling strings and some dynamics. But even with the song showing depth to the man, it fails to show much depth to his music. The question is whether this song should appear on an album released by XL or if it would fit better on a greatest `90s ballads compilation featuring Tonic and Fuel. That sounds harsher than I want it to.

Jack's a young man still, and who's to say where his music will carry him. In any case, his album carries a lot of energy behind it and his backing band is quite talented. And maybe it wouldn't be so bad if every song didn't rely on the same rhythmic guitar strumming over a simplistic two- or three-chord progression. There's a lot to be said about simple progressions, but 1-4-5 has staying power while most of these songs sound like the stuff I used to make up on the spot when I was trying to learn guitar in high school.