The Penny Black Remedy – Maintaining Dignity in Awkward Situations

Album Review | Mono Del Mundo | By Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

The London based but internationally flavoured Penny Black Remedy are like a dark western swing equivalent of Victorian music hall. Like the Handsome Family, up tempo feel good dance tempo music often carries a twisted wry lyric. “So I’d Murder to Have You Back” has the sweet duetting vocals of TPBR singers Keith M Thomson and Marijana Hajdarhodzic recounting the fall out of a vicious breakup, or in “Seventy Years” is a sombre assessment of life. But this isn’t typical Country melancholy as the lyrics are delivered with a wry smile like a musical or music hall. With song titles and lyrics like “Trying to be a Slightly Better Person” it’s easy to imagine we are watching an Ian Duryesque stage show, characters dressed in Burlesque or Cabaret style emoting by limelight in a seedy theatre. Croatian Marijana has a big powerful voice, that holds your attention and lends surreal songs like “You Should’ve Left Your Money at Home”, with its rockabilly guitar and crooning vocals, a Brechtian edge. “It’s Dark Outside” repaints the Christmas schmaltz of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” for a world full of serial killers. Keith M Thomson is at his most Nick Cave with a rumbling baritone. “Is it Safe to Say Goodnight” the final song is the like the closing song in an Addams Family Christmas Country Special. I now a vision of this song played by the band wearing bad Val Doonican Christmas Jumpers waving to the cameras while they sing this. The music and the band are glorious too, gypsy tinged country with luscious violin, picked and strummed guitars and infectious rhythms. As the wonderful painted cover suggests, ever so slightly kitsch, but taking on the world on its own terms. The Penny Black Remedy are from David Lynch’s hallucinogenic circus tent of Country. Beautiful music, sinister arch lyrics wonderfully delivered. Maintaining Dignity in Awkward Situations indeed.