With ‘Chicken Katsu Curry’, an 11 minute swirl of darkly humorous lyricism and off kilter drums, the enigmatic Jean Penne has returned to our lives.
Lyrically, Penne flits between the frankly surreal and the disconcertingly normal – when delivered in his deadpan style, your skin is left crawling, unsure of which is more disturbing. A particularly vivid scene involves Penne contemplating drowning his infant son (including a count of the seconds he holds him underwater in the bath) before – at the behest of an angry wife – he is made to sleep in the loft, watching Wedding Crashers on his phone. Hearing the mantra “Vince Vaughan is so funny, and Owen Wilson is so funny and also a legend” in this context is so bizarre that I would liken it to a particularly horrible bout of sleep paralysis. The track feels off-putting, almost like meeting a close friend or relative, and finding them wearing an intensely detailed prosthetic mask of their own face.
Jean Penne challenges concepts such as masculinity and relationships with a humour stemming from the feeling of droll boredom towards it all – and this humour is key, as it allows him to caricature at will, avoiding the traps of pretension and predictability through turn of phrase and vivid narration. The tune itself almost reaches the realm of danceability, and you can almost imagine hearing it upon emerging from a club into the morning sunshine. Y’know, apart from lyrics about an attempted suicide inspired by a jealousy of the simplistic life of Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, The Cheddar man. That’s Jean Penne for you – absolutely deranged, but completely fucking brilliant.