The Penny Black Remedy are a ska/punk band based in London, who’s first album, No One’s Fault But Your Own, was released on their own Soundanista label, the resultant tours of which were booked by the band themselves. A jubilant examination of sadness, bordellos and rapier-like songwriting, it was a record you’d need to be totally heartless not to move to, and be moved by.
Four years on, the quartet return, bolstered by the Horns Of Fury, to deliver …Panic! Scheduled for release on July 15th, this new ten tracker places its feet on its predecessors’ shoulders, and pokes its head above the clouds.
While principle songwriter Keith M. Thompsons’ material has evolved and widened, the most immediate difference lies in the production. Clearer, deeper, and gifted with a proper dynamic range, the songs have genuine weight. Opener Some People Just Don’t Know When To Quit manages to be both excellent to listen to and humourous, by faking its own ending only to re-emerge, The Chain-style, for its final moments. Underpinned by the well-placed gang vocals, this sets the stall out nicely.
Putting The Mental Into Sentimentality is properly rollicking. Wilco’s drumming skitters beefily away, the band having a full grasp of exactly what they’re putting across. It’s nice to hear such pointedly self-analytical lyrics in a context that can’t help but make you smile and skank at the same time.
The whole album pulses with a maturity, and not the wet, horizon-gazing polemic so common in musical circles. Resonating instead with the kind of perspective only made possible through taking a big step back, every note is correctly placed and enunciated. Live, the band are warm, charming characters, the physical elevation of the stage being the only separation between crowd and artists, the gap being narrowed further by the inviting, inclusive nature of this record. Even the tale of gin-soaked regret detailed on “You’ll Thank Me In The Morning” has a redemptive, personal quality to it. Seemingly hewn from the same material used to build brothel districts during prohibition, this sultry, last-chance hymnal marvellously showcases the larynx of Marijana Hajdarhodzic, who’s tones give the band a warm, dangerous edge.
Elsewhere, “I’ve Got This Friend”… is a right toe-tapper, its sadly familiar tale of a close friend, unable to be liberated from their prison of sorrow, being one of the most engaging on the record. The histrionic backing vocals give a wayward edge to the whole enterprise, something that further shows the PBR’s willingness to push their envelope while keeping you dancing.
You would need a soul made of wood and a heart of soap not to love this album, or the band that made it. Brimming with character and packed to the hilt with quality songs, there’s nothing not to like, and after a multitude of full listens it was impossible to pick anything that did the album a disservice. If you are in any way predisposed to dancing, joy, or the celebration of life, might I suggest that you acquire this record immediately.
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