Jack Penate, ‘Everything is New’ – Review

15 Jun

Poor Jack Penate was given somewhat of a hard time when he released his (by most accounts) underwhelming debut album ‘Matinee’ in 2007. The publications that had praised his early exuberant singles turned around and gave him a cold and harsh slap across the face, pairing him up with fellow pop lightweight Kate Nash. It’s hard to feel sorry for someone as unashamedly hip and annoying as Jack Penate though, whose upbeat melodies and bizarre dancing have made him an intriguing live act. Truth be told ‘Matinee’ was a decent pop album, held back by the brilliant singles and weighed down by expectations. Most thought he was a one hit wonder, few thought he could better the album – all the best songs were years old – he had had lifetime to write a few classic tunes and some mediocre ones, how could he possibly better it in a couple of years?

Well his first step was to hire influential producer Paul Epsworth, the man who more than any other was at the helm of the indie bandwagon of 2004/2005, and responsible for the likes of Bloc Party, The Rakes, The Futureheads and Maximo Park. Epsworth always manages to create a polished and contempory sounds whilst layering songs in an intresting way, I don’t think hes produced a dud yet and he certainly ranks as one of today’s most influential producers. Here Epsworth’s job was to get Penate to diversify, he had crafted the perfect pop song on Matinee and it was obvious any attempt to repeat old ground would be the end of the road. Thankfully he has done exactly the right thing and the second album is an eclectic bunch of well chosen songs, glimmering with sounds from far of places – Particularly sunny  beaches.

World music has certainly played a part here, most tracks feature complex rhythms, spiky guitars, echo, and at least a couple of unusual instruments. Dancehall and Brazilian music are clear influences, the album has a party vibe that runs throughout all nine tracks, even the slower ones. Late 80’s, Early 90s soul and britpop also has been largely influential, as was obvious on the debut. Simply Red and The Stone Roses are two unexpected acts I’m reminded of throughout. That it’s all been crafted into a sound that is still recognizably Jack Penate, is largely down to the producer who helped develop the songs on the album from an early stage. The tracks have been well ordered and well selected, the fact that they chose to include only nine songs should be applauded as too few modern acts appreciate the phrase ‘all killer no filler’ and whilst I wouldn’t say this is all killer, it’s hard to signal out a bad track.

Highlights include new single ‘Be the One’ and ‘Give yourself away’, both have a high tempo, dance feel whilst sounding pure pop at heart. First single ‘Tonight’s today’ is another stand out although it never really caught anyone’s attention in the way singles from matinee did. I think that is one problem with ‘Everything is new’, it doesn’t feel as immediate as Penate’s debut did, there aren’t any classic songs on here, rather the album as a whole is more important than any of the individual tracks that make it up, which is perhaps no bad thing. But at the same time this doesn’t sound like the classic album Penate clearly is desperate for it to be – from the classy album art to the intelligent tracklisting – Jack is trying and it shows.Even over nine tracks the album feels a little samey, the sounds are varied enough and the differing influences are obvious, but ‘Lets all die’ doesn’t really sound any different to ‘Everything’s new’, in fact it all kind of blurs into one.

Overall this is a well thought out and brilliantly crafted album (and album is the important word, this is an album in the traditional sense of the word). Penate has clearly proved any doubters wrong with ‘Everything is new’ and now I am truely excited to see where he goes next.

7/10

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