Penetration


[Resolution sleeve]"Resolution" (Album, 2015) 

Polestar Records

We start with Instumantra, which as the name suggests is an instrumental, with slashing chords building up a nagging, insistent coda that sounds not unlike Another Kind of Tension era Buzzcocks, it sets you up nicely to expect something pretty good... then it all goes horribly, horribly wrong. Betrayed! passes by pleasantly enough, but makes no impression whatsoever. Similarly, Just Drifting is so anodyne that I haven’t managed to write any notes about it despite listening to it for several dozen times. 

The drums threaten to do something interesting in the intro to Guilty, but it soon settles back into tedium. At least makes an impression, but only due to the fact it sounds like Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer, complete with some really duff lyrics, which is a depressing feature of the whole LP (“I’ve been down so long, it looks like up to me” Presumably they’re saving the deathless line about the light at the end of the tunnel being a train coming the other way for the next LP). So bad are they in their rhyming dictionary obviousness, that even Mr Bongiovi would hang his head to have let them make it onto a b-side.

The whole thing slides by in an uneventful soup, with only the new single Beat Goes On standing out. Unfortunately, this is not for any good reason, but rather because it sounds like The Travelling Wilburys. Ok, it sounds like The Travelling Wilburys from another dimension where Tom Petty is in charge, but there’s no situation where a sentence starting with the phrase “It sounds like The Travelling Wilburys” can ever be a good thing. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, they get Fred Purser (the original second guitarist who went on to join Tygers of Pan Tang) to smear a horribly oily heavy metal solo all over it. 

A relief of sorts comes with the last track (Outromistra), which again threatens to be interesting, featuring as it does Murray reading an excerpt from The Machine Stops, a 1909 short story by E.M. Forster. Such is my Sci-Fi geekery that I recognised the lines without the aid of the press release, but it’s only the obscurity and prescience of the text that gives it any interest. Rather than pick a few powerful phrases (of which there are several – I want to see you not through the machine being one of them), she chooses to read a whole block of text, and great singer though she is, Murray is no actor, and reads with a curious lack of inflection, and surprisingly, no sense of rhythm. 

This is a polite, middle-aged record, slickly played, with a polished production, there’s nothing that makes you sit up and take notice. The whole thing chugs along pleasantly enough, and could fit easily into their initial late ‘70s run of recordings, but unfortunately it fits into the not very good ones off Coming Up For Air. John Maher, whose work with Buzzcocks had possibly the highest ratio of tom-tom rolls per song known to man, and includes such thundering efforts as Moving Away from the Pulsebeat, Autonomy, and (oh, the irony) Nostalgia contents himself with human metronome duties, rarely venturing beyond the most basic of ‘boom/tisch’ workouts. 

Pauline Murray has always cited Patti Smith as a major influence, and in their best moments Penetration easily embodied that transformative, transcendent power, but throughout their career – despite a great debut LP - those moments became rarer and rarer, and here they are entirely absent. 

Most disappointing are the lyrics, which previously had captured the teenage rush of teetering on the brink of the unknown, and jumping anyway. Songs like Don’t Dictate and Silent Community embody this figurative and literal leap of faith so encoded in punk’s DNA, but the songs here are all about hesitation and defeat. I didn’t expect this to sound like a record made by teenagers, but I wanted it to. 

I wanted verve, brio and other ill defined French words! I wanted fire! I wanted passion! I wanted feedback bleeding into the microphones! I wanted, in short, some fucking punk rock! And I didn’t get it... 

In the end, this is competent rock album, similar in many ways to Green Day’s American Idiot, but shorn of the rage that gave that record its edge. What it isn’t is a punk album, and for that it gets a disappointing (and disappointed) 4/10.

Nick Hydra (November 2015)


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