DOUBLE TRACK REVIEW:THE DIDDLER BY JEAN PENNE
20 disconcerting minutes that warns of no end to Jean Penne’s comedic grasp on topics that will make you feel laughably uncomfortable. The Diddler is an unsettling portrayal of two short stories, interlaced with dream-like musical accompaniment. So, if you’re willing to be entranced through this nightmarish illusion, set aside enough time after having listened to this couple of songs to rock back and forth in the corner of a dark room until you feel safe again.
I don’t mean to scare you off there, because by no means is this not a great work of art. In comparison to his debut single “Chicken Katsu Curry”, the overtly disturbing themes to Penne’s music deepen in this collection, and the comic relief is now purely reliant upon you cringing so hard you can’t help but laugh. After all, Jean Penne’s main attraction is to make you writhe in your skin, so what better fit is there than Jean Penne with DRAB magazine?
Having had the pleasure (if you can call it that) of playing on the same bill as Penne at Hyde Park Book Club, my curiosity was piqued when he came on stage in an oversized suit and sheer tights masking his face. Over these tights, smears of lipstick mapped out his facial features with crudely torn holes to reveal his piercing eyes. That’s right, his get up was rare, and his companion - the appointed ‘DJ’ - wasn’t far from bizarre either: using an ironing board as a stand for his glockenspiel and laptop computer set-up and wearing an outfit almost equally as garish. By the end of their show I was reeling with distress and howling with laughter. So you can understand when Jean Penne got in contact to reveal his recent project The Diddler, I was hesitant to see what I was getting myself in for… but there was no way I was going to turn him down.
Bearing his laugh-a-minute performance at HPBC and subsequent single release in mind, I am delighted to inform you just how captivating the duo track really is. These two stories, whilst hyper surreal and strange in their nature, picked me up and threw me into the fictional shoes of the protagonists. For one half, I became romantically involved with Simon, a Virgo who accidentally runs me over with his car. In the other, I am a wrongly accused convicted paedophile, who is assaulted by other inmates in the prison in which I am wrongfully detained. Whilst the songs themselves don’t feature as prominent a musical accompaniment as the ones I danced to at the Book Club, the lyrical content is wholly worthy of the focus it receives from the droning synth-wave ambience.
After my first listen I was perplexed by how Jean Penne’s monotonous delivery makes the bleak happenings in each story so ominously creepy that it does the opposite of making them seem dull. Both tracks had me hooked on his every word, lulling me into a relaxed and somewhat malleable state of mind. Yes, I feel violated, assaulted and even emotionally manipulated as a result of involving myself with the characters in these distressing tales, but it’s Penne’s expert command of these feelings that has me excited for more of it.
To commend Jean Penne solely for his musical output would be to belittle his reputation. When not under this stage name, he is both a creative writer of a short story book called BLOKE, and a member of a performance-art theatre company called Caravan Guys. And by the way, if you get the chance, you must take the opportunity to see one of their productions. I saw “How to Beat up your Dad” at the Holbeck Theatre in which the satirical weirdness had me just as hysterical and delightfully uncomfortable as I am after having listened to The Diddler. So, to all you like-minded masochistic freaks: keep your eyes in the back of your head, as Jean Penne is likely to creep into your neighbourhood before you know it!
Have a listen to “Chicken Katsu Curry” on Spotify in anticipation for Jean Penne’s release of The Diddler by clicking here.
Writing by Luc Gibbons
Artwork by Athen Brady