In the grand tradition of alternative bands humping New Order’s leg, The Penelope(s) have struck with an album that sounds, from top to bottom, ripped straight from a late-night radio show in Manchester, circa 1987. I’m as big a fan of New Order as you’ll ever find, but on this album, the formula is stretched dangerously thin. With few exceptions, The Penelope(s), a Parisian duo obsessed with digital synthesizers, are so painfully derivative that it’s impossible to avoid comparisons to other (far better) electronic bands.
It’s not as if Priceless Concrete Echoes is the product of laziness or lack of care. The album is clean and well-produced, with rich-sounding percussion and spotless synthesized bass lines worthy of a Lionel Ritchie B-side. Curiously, the Penelope(s)’s drum machine seems to have been stuck on one rhythm, since it’s repeated on most of the album’s songs. It’s endearing and basic, but it gets grating fast.
For a shameless rip off of a legendary and influential new wave band, Priceless Concrete Echoes isn’t terrible. It’s got the occasional catchy guitar melody, the odd clever bit of drum machine programming or keyboard work. But it’s a purely paint-by-numbers affair, and even with the recent revival of interest in the music of the late 1980s, it’s as dated as polyester bell-bottoms. The cringe-inducing cover of the Beastie Boys’’ “Sabotage” serves as a summary of this album more eloquent than I could ever come up with— irrelevant, desperate, and joyless.
In A Word: Flattery