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Music Review: Penguin Party – See Thru Songs

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Arco attracted my attention when I saw the name Martin Newell listed among their influences. Martin is a musician, writer, poet, critic, author, and all round talented guy. His slightly eccentric style has produced albums of the quality of The Greatest Living Englishman and The Off White Album. Another word often used, even by himself, to describe his style is jangly.

Just down the road from Martin in Wivenhoe, Essex is Dave Milligan. Dave was one third of the band Arco. As you may recall, they have released several studio EPs and albums and hopefully more will be on its way. Dave meanwhile has been busy with a side project. Enter Penguin Party.

Penguin Party’s CD See Thru Songs (Sitting Target Music, September 2008) taps into his love of not only Martin Newell, but also early Squeeze and Nick Lowe. The album contains some of the most instantly accessible pop you will hear this year. The result is cooler than a real penguin’s party.

Comparisons have been made to the song writing of Messrs Difford and Tillbrook of Squeeze, and you can easily understand why. Penguin Party and See Thru Songs is more quintessentially British than fish and chips, red phone boxes, or six pints of bitter on a wet Saturday night down the pub.

Slightly quirky and individualistic, it is also engagingly charming. One reviewer has used the word ‘spangly’; I only wish I had thought of it first. Dave Milligan taps into a rich heritage of British pop to produce a memorably tuneful, instantly absorbing, collection of See Thru Songs.

“United State Of Grace” is a superbly written stand out track. “Here Be The Chorus” is pure Squeeze. We also see Arco’s “Lullaby” being revisited and given a little more of an up-tempo feel.

“Beaten Black And Blue” slopes along smoothly with lyrics that absorb. “Mirrorball” opens with the intriguing line, "Sometimes I don’t reflect in mirrors". From that moment, it literally reels you in. It is fair to say that lurking within the album are cleverly constructed lyrics about all manner of human experiences.

“Goin’ Back To Grandma’s” is a quirky sing along. “Before I Go Away” seduces and delights. The album ends with “I’m Ready For My Close-up Now Mr Demille”. It is a track that has Mr. Newell himself enthusing, "Jangle indeed. Great stuff!"

See Thru Songs is a highly enjoyable trip through Dave Milligan’s slant on British pop. Well written, nicely balanced, and understated.

‘Jangly’, or even, ‘Spangly’. Either way, let’s just say it works.

Crash in on a Penguin Party at the MySpace profile.

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About Jeff Perkins