Michael Penn MP4 (Epic/Fifty Seven)

National Records

Michael Penn

MP4 (Epic/Fifty Seven)

Once you get over the line in "Lucky One," the first song on Michael Penn's fourth album MP4, you thought you'd actually avoided hearing -- the one that chimes out "Here comes the millennium" -- it's all downhill from there. That's the last moment of anything other than estimable originality in music and verse, of a fully fleshed and intelligent take on the world at large set to a pop soundtrack that would make Nick Lowe wish he was 20 years younger. When Penn brings it down, as on "Don't Let Me Go" and "Bucket Brigade," the bemused writer's eye still manages to shoulder through the sadness. Penn writes strong songs, with dense and heady lyrics, resonant melodies, and a knack for rhyme and meter akin to that of Elvis Costello. Witness the candid look at the true and false nature of love and art as found in "Beautiful," or the bleak Romanticism of "Perfect Candidate." Though there don't appear to be any instant hits on the order of "No Myth" or "This and That" from his debut, MP4 rivals any of Penn's albums to date. Besides, who said an instant hit was a measure of quality?


A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Rod Melancon
Pinkville (Record Review)

Scott Jordan, May 3, 2019

Texas Platters
Daniel Francis Doyle & the Dreams
Unrecognizable (Record Review)

Kevin Curtin, April 19, 2019

More by Christopher Hess
Phases & Stages
Rob Halverson
Second Whirled (Record Review)

Feb. 4, 2005

Phases and Stages
Stratford 4
Love and Distortion (Record Review)

March 14, 2003

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle