MUSIC REVIEWS: What Made Milwaukee Famous and Jack Penate
Great rock music doesn’t come around that often but the new album from What Made Milwaukee Famous is great because it’s filled with what made 70’s and early 80’s rock so epic: killer guitar hooks, down to earth lyrics, and enough variation in melody to keep the album playing forever. The album, What Doesn’t Kill Us is the second release form the Austin, Texas natives and it begins with an enticing track- “Blood, Sweat & Fears,” which lets the listener know immediately that this is not just another indie band. It’s followed up with great tracks like “And the Grief Goes On…,” “To Each His Own,” and “Sultan”- one of my favorite new songs of the year. These tracks showcase the bands strength in their very personal and relatable lyrics about dysfunction, boredom, and difficult relationships. Their sound is fun, has well orchestrated instrumentation and dynamically fun musical phrasing. The songs have hints of everything from classic Queen, mid-career Billy Joel, to modern indie rock such as Spoon and Ben Folds. The album made me an instant fan of the band and with their recent gigs at Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza its clear their fan base is growing fast.
One of the best things about London rocker Jack Peñate is his completely unapologetic and unabashed English accent. “What” turns into “wot,” “laugh” morphs into “lof,” and “bottle” somehow miraculously turns into a one-syllable word. Half the time, you can hardly understand him, but honestly, it doesn’t really matter because the hooks in the background are so catchy. A big fan of the off-beat and fast tempo, Peñate frantically makes the most out of his acoustic guitar strings. His vocals stay in a fairly safe (yet undeniably catchy) octave-and-a-half range, with a few falsetto notes thrown in here and there. The first track on his debut, “Spit at Stars,” entices you to listen to the rest of the record while at the same time making you want to immediately memorize all the lyrics and sing along in your very own imitation “Bri-ish” accent.