Cute enough to be mainstream, indie enough to be cool, different enough to stand out but normal enough to be accessible... and sufficiently talented to pull it all off.
Jack Peñate ploughs a difficult furrow. A singer-songwriter with a pretty face and a knack for catchy three-minute pop songs with lyrics centred around the traditionally accessible themes of a) love and b) loss, you’d be forgiven for misreading his name as ‘James’ and automatically filing him into the dark recesses of the brain that give you the shudders whenever your consciousness strays too close.
But no. Peñate’s musical dimensions are thankfully in the plural, as he shows on this, his debut album. Matinee is a strong collection of songs that, while not devoid of treacle-ish ballads like the soppy but adorable ‘My Yvonne’, hints at a talent finding its feet. Take recent single ‘Spit At Stars’ — an accomplished exercise in infectious ska pop that was written with The Maccabees’ guitarist Felix White while the pair were studying at London’s (rather posh, luvvie) Alleyn’s School.
This isn’t the only place on the record you can hear a Maccabees connection, either: Peñate’s vocals often venture toward Maccs frontman Orlando Weeks’ trembling, caffeinated warble, and the spiky guitar sound he employs is very now, in a trendy-indie kinda way. Take ‘Second, Minute Or Hour’ — a simple yet edgy pop song that rivals the common cold in catchiness and sounds a bit like Jamie T with the scat turned down, jamming with the aforesaid Maccabees on a forgotten Beatles track from the ‘60s. The lyrics, “I lost my head/When I found my heart” may not spark a modern poetry revolution, but their directness and simplicity fit perfectly with the music.
And it’s this that’s the key to Peñate’s appeal. Cute enough to be mainstream, indie enough to be cool, different enough to stand out but normal enough to be accessible… and sufficiently talented to pull it all off. A glorious future awaits.