Review by LarryG|
1½ stars out of 4
It's a shame that Michael Penn hasn't known much success since
his hit No Myth from his strong debut record March. His 1997 CD
Resigned was smart, edgy and varied but not too many people noticed.
Sadly, MP4 doesn't deserve much notice. It's a cold, unexciting
MP4 starts well with the frothy Lucky One. It's fairly silly and
now dated, with Penn singing about being "the luckiest in Luckydom"
until the millennium comes, but fun. Patrick Warren, Penn's longtime
keyboard sidekick, can be a little bit of a showoff but on Lucky One,
he plays a good, simple chiming keyboard line. High Time, which is a
little like March's Bedlam Boys, is probably the best song on MP4. It
has the charm of a mellow late Beatles or George Harrison song. With a
big beat and Grant Lee Phillips' "shoo-bebop" backup vocals High Time,
which urges a friend who has long mourned a loss to move on with her
life, has a light touch that's missing from most of the record.
Footdown has a nice, relaxed feel, with background singing from Penn's
brother Chris and a good edge and texture, from Victor Indrizzo's
drums and Warren's atmospherics, of the sort which made Resigned work.
The rest of the songs really drag. Warren's contributions are
uncharacteristically restrained and the songs don't have much flavor.
Penn's singing is inexpressive and his tales are almost unrelentingly
sad. Penn is ever so serious and the songs aren't particularly
illuminating. On Whole Truth, Penn slowly repeats again and again,
"isn't it the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth",
without illuminating any great truths. Don't Let Me Go has some
interest for its portrait of obsessive neediness but the wallowing is
too much after a while. Trampoline, Beautiful and Perfect Candidate
are thoughtful but they're also downbeat and unappealing. Out Of Its
Misery's music is a little more lively but Penn's singing is still
humorless as he sings about another sad, troubled person.
Penn is probably never going to match the success or the energy of
his debut, but on MP4, sometimes it sounds like he's given up trying.
MP4 sounds mature and carefully made but it's largely lacking in any
spark or energy and it's usually too gloomy to have much appeal.