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Music on Our Radar: Jack Penate at Botttom of the Hill

You have to appreciate a lad brave enough to break with form and extend his reach. Such is the sound of Everything Is New (XL) by London singer-songwriter Jack Penate, who I had pegged as an anti-folk/rockabilly busker of sorts. Silly me. This new album finds the 24-year-old grandson of Mervyn Peake, the author of the Gormenghast fantasies, turning an unexpected corner. You can hear him picking up and examining all sorts of found pop sounds, from house to Northern Soul, Tropicalia to hip-hop. Songs like opener “Pull My Heart Away” could slouch straight off a Fine Young Cannibals recording, whereas the brassy, disco-sassy “Be the One” and sprightly, Afropop-inflected “Tonight’s Today” could land smack on the dancefloor with nary a ripple – save for the club kids gravitating like brightly hued moths to the light of the mirror ball. It’s as if Penate has doffed his retro mannerisms, dove deep and surfaced in the 21st century, where dance crews beckon and a world of global mash-ups entice.

Still, it’s the last two tracks that keep me hanging on. Gliding on Penate’s euphoric, well-hell falsetto, the sing-along “Let’s All Die” perfectly captures the fatalistic joie de vivre of being young, wrecked and altogether reckless. “When our life is over, let’s not cry,” Penate warbles. “Over and over again, death becomes our only friend,” before the football-mob chorus kicks in. “Out of the womb and into the doom!” he answers ever so sweetly, so that you want to follow Penate’s Pied Piper entreaty, straight to the final track: “Body Down,” the most experimental number of Everything Is New and an atmospheric mélange of backwards-masking, Motown tambourine and guitar vamps -- a glance back at both the Supremes and Vanilla Fudge’s versions of “You Keep Me Hanging On.” Get down? This ‘body is down with Penate.

Jack Peñate - Tonight's Today


Jack Penate plays Oct. 3, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. Miike Snow and Loquat open. $12. (415) 621-4455.