Lately it seems that there's always an album in the top ten by someone - usually a singer/songwriter - few people have heard of. This happened recently with Jack Penate and his debut album Matinee, which was released in October and went straight in at No. 7.
As it turns out, Jack Penate, aged 23 from Blackheath, London, has been relentlessly gigging and has featured prominently in NME, on XFM Radio and also on Radio 1. He seems to be a very popular live performer - with a crazy dancing style - and has appeared at most of the big festivals. In the press he seems to be portrayed as the hip young Londoner with cool showbiz friends (you know, the likes of Lilly Allen, Kate Nash, etc.).
So surely with the release of his debut album he was clearly destined for massive stardom, right?
Well, I think the jury's still out. The critics haven't exactly heaped bucket loads of praise on this album and it didn't hang around the top ten for very long either, in fact, it vanished quicker than a bottle of Stella backstage at an Amy Winehouse gig.
One of the things that strike you about this album is the huge mix of styles and influences, which is fine if the ingredients are forged together to create something new and unique. With Jack Penate the end result is something of a patchwork of lightweight pop-rock with cheeky bloke-next-door vocals. Think "Happy Hour" by the Housemartins sung by Lee Evans.
The opening track, "Spit at Stars", is very typical of the whole Jack Penate thing. It's all fast and furious, stop/start, with a rockabilly bass line, Housemartin's "Happy Hour" guitars, a cheeky Lilly Allen/Kate Nash style estuary accent on the vocals, and a catchy singalong chorus.
From there we go to the lively "Got My Favourite" toned down slightly by a "Club Tropicana" Wham-meets-Jamiroquai feel. Housemartin-style guitars return with "Have I Been A Fool" along with a simpering piano melody and a bass line that sounds like it's from a caffeine injected Country ballad.
Then the poignant start of "Torn on the Platform" which, following a quick drumstick 1-2-3-4, launches full on into "Happy Hour" guitars before a ska-like verse a la The Specials and the occasional pounding machine-gun guitar style break: 'Cos eyes, eyes, eyes are not dry, dry, dry as I realise, ise, ise'.
Then the Maroon 5-esque "Learning Lines". For me this is one of stand-out tracks - 'Metal strings, glowing tubes, Bessie Smith, sings the blues'. There is also a slightly different version of this song at the end of the album as a hidden track.
Track 9 "My Yvonne" is a pleasant enough ballad - again with a few dodgy falsettos - but some nice backing vocals from another "next-big-thing", Adele. Which leads nicely into more Penate-frantic-riffery with "Second, Minute or Hour" (in which 'stupid' is marvellously rhymed with 'Cupid').
Then the sombre "When We Die", with overtones of Jose Gonzalez, which leads - if you can be bothered to wait for it - to the hidden track mentioned earlier.
So there you have it. A quirky mixture of frantic lightweight pop-rock.
I suspect that most of these songs - combined with Penate's crazy dancing style - would probably be way more entertaining when performed live than they are on a studio album. He seems to be constantly gigging so maybe catching a live performance wouldn't be a bad idea.
And maybe one day we'll all be doing Jack's mad chicken-leg dance while wearing a checked shirt, straight leg black jeans and trainers...