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Jack Penate
Everything Is New Iain Moffat , June 23rd, 2009 11:40

Never underestimate the power of the sharply departing second album: the difference it made to the Mystery Jets last year was a positive and palpable one; the Horrors' sophomore set has taken them from the realm of scenester novelty to far darker and more enduring territory; and Kasabian were clearly so taken with the results of their shift from post-baggy belligerence to Mansunic drama that they've decided to make a between-albums screeching left turn into a regular occurrence. Even without such precedents, though, it's difficult to imagine that Jack Penate would have sprung Matinee II on us, as anyone who saw him performing at his initial height would be only too aware that — the richly-observed protestations of 'Run For Your Life' notwithstanding — timing and commercial instinct had ensured he was frequently playing to a more beery'n'fighty crowd than he was prepared to stand for. Many of whom, you'd imagine, are going to have real problems with this.

In a way, perhaps, that'd be even sweeter had he provided a false sense of security on his return. However, not only are there no tracks at all here that serve as a smooth bridging point from the early material, but 'Tonight's Today' is a staggering way of telegraphing how things are going to be this time around. Much has been made — especially by reviewers who've backtracked on their previously strong anti-Penate stances — of the influence of Talking Heads, and rightly so; but its richness extends beyond that. There's the wonderful way it sweeps into view, starting almost in media res. There's the new-found air of hypnotism to his delivery. There's even an endearing echo of the Funky Worm's early acid crossover classic 'Hustle! (To The Music)'. Heard out, it sounds like the most avant-garde return from any hitmaker this year aside from 'Bonkers', and yet it still manages to be a continuation of previous endeavours. While he may have been lumped in with the landfill legions, there was always a curiosity and enthusiasm to Jack's tracks, and it's those elements in particular that blossom here.

Alright, so it may not quite be the world tour that, say, Kala was, but the guitar horizons have extended beyond mere rockabilly and classicist janglism and taken on more of an African edge — most substantially on the title track. While Penate's vocal range is still employed to giddy effect, at times he's prone to adopting a more choral approach here, to winningly warm effect. Moreover, there are constant interjections that are outright audacious in their oddness, such as the sudden skronking sax in 'Be The One' or the brief nu-gaze assault that's tacked on the end of the otherwise somewhat indebted to mid-80s soul 'Give Yourself Away'. Entire tracks are awash with this enhanced stylistic ambition, such as the glistening, almost Victorialand-era Cocteaus wash of 'Every Glance' or the remarkable 'So Near', which really ought to come accompanied by Cossack dancers. Moreover, while this may all come with a degree of confrontational intent, there's still an abundance of affable turns of phrase and an overwhelming joy that renders 'Body Down' brilliantly defiant and 'Let's All Die' genuinely life-affirming.

Everything Is New might be a rather risky offering — indeed, it practically spits at stardom — but it really does do what it says on the tin, and it's all the better for it.