A fifth set from the Brit-based Kansas girl, which finds her expanding her palette.
John Aizlewood 2011-11-10
What a delightfully contrary woman Angela ‘Piney Gir’ Penhaligon is. She's not in her native Kansas anymore – in fact, she's lived in London for over a decade – but she sounds as if she's barely set foot out of her front door.
The 13 tracks of this fifth album – recorded in Los Angeles – come and go in under 40 minutes, but whereas once she sounded so country she almost edged into the parody territory (and still does on the first half of The Gift, where she chances a yodel, which Swiss listeners may not find wholly authentic) once inhabited by the long-forgotten Boothill Foot-Tappers, now she's expanding her palette. She salutes West Coast girl groups of the 1960s throughout and, if the thunderous riffs of The Longest Day of Spring and the Byrds-ian pirouettes of Would You Be There are any yardstick, she's heard the muscular pop of The Adult Net, led by Brix Smith, another American who found herself permanently stationed in Blighty. There's even some Velvet Underground-esque drumming on Stay Sweet.
As step forwards (via looking backwards) go, it's brave and for the most part it works, not least since she's retained the sense of puckish fun which makes listening to her such an untrammelled joy from the moment the opening Outta Sight leans heavily on The Troggs' With a Girl Like You. Yet, she doesn't go far enough. Geronimo!'s failing is not just her traditionally shallow production, but the loss of nerve which reins her back. It's Our Time sounds as if it was rattled off in 10 minutes, and if Let's Get Silly's title wasn't sufficient warning in itself, the duck whistle seals its grisly tumble into the abyss of twee.
But, nonetheless, highs are easily found. Friends and Neighbours is built around divine harmonies; River Song skates perilously close to hoe-down territory before rescuing itself; and there's even a hint of gravitas and some mournful brass on the closing, echo-laden Say Goodbye. There's not enough to push her into the mainstream, but there's nothing, either, to scare the horses. And before you can say "it's a marathon not a sprint, even in 2011," this slow-burner may yet catch light.