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Priceless Concrete Echoes (Bonus Track Version)

The Penelopes & DJ Morpheus

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Album Review

The engaging, almost ridiculously playful work of the Penelope[s] (specifically the French band that bears the name, as different from various other groups around the world) got a wonderful showcase on Priceless Concrete Echoes, happily mashing up styles with a breezy confidence that could have been at home in many spots all over from the world, from Japanese avant-garde pop to Mexican "try anything once" genre trashing. If there's an overriding spirit to much of the release it might be the neither-rock-nor-dance feeling of a band like New Order, perhaps inevitably heightened by bass work throughout that more than slightly suggests Peter Hook. It's not the only touch that suggests said group, though — the downbeat pop feeling of "Stuck in Lalaland," the guitar touches on "Licked by Love," the wordless vocal "ooo" sounds on "Circle of Seasons" that could almost be Bernard Sumner straight out of "Temptation." But Priceless Concrete Echoes is hardly simply Factory Records worship — no album with a sweet and slightly silly version of the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" could be accused of that, though it's more of a curio than a reason to tune in. But the playing with signifiers is hardly limited to that, as "Joey Santiago" demonstrates, given that it may be named after the guitarist but it sounds nothing like a Pixies song. The various guest vocals throughout add further variety — Morpheus puts on his best Phil Oakey at plenty of points, while the female vocalist on "Demian" nods a bit to early Siouxsie as her vocals go up against robotic voices on the break. Then there are the shoegaze drone touches on "Saved" and "The Heat Goes On," only the latter gets further punctuated with near slap-bass funk, while "Your Plan for Happiness" concludes on a note of travel video soundtrack and sleaze, at once happy and gently sinister.


Formed: Japan

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The Japanese twee-pop outfit the Penelopes was essentially the work of singer/songwriter Tatsuhiko Watanabe; the group debuted in 1992 with the album In a Big Golden Cage, followed a year later by Touch the Ground. Although by this time the band was primarily a Watanabe solo project, he maintained the Penelopes' name for 1997's Kiss of Life;...
Full Bio
Priceless Concrete Echoes (Bonus Track Version), The Penelopes
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