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  • Writer's pictureGavin Griffiths

Penny Rich - If Everyone's An Expert - Album Review

Wales has, the greatest National Anthem, in the world, and if you don’t believe me, I’ll get Rhod Gilbert to tell you, with not only conviction, but to exasperatedly rant about it to your face, until you submit amidst a mental breakdown, and a puddle of confused tears. “IT’S LIKE A 15 TOG DUVET IN WINTER! IT’S NOT 10.5! IT’S NOT A LITTLE BIT COSY! IT’S BLOODY FIERY AND PASSIONATE! LIKE OUR FLAG WITH A FUCKING DRAGON ON IT! IT’S PERFECT!” He shouts. Why? Because it’s true. Wales is called the land of song for a reason, with our rich history of choirs, legendary performers like SIR TOM JONES and DAME SHIRLEY BASSEY, and despite our small-scale internationally, we have had, in the past, one of the greatest concentrations of alternative artists anywhere on the planet. So, where are they all?

Recently we’ve had the likes of HOLDING ABSENCE make waves in the likes of Kerrang!, carrying the torch for UK alternative rock, while DREAM STATE and JUNIOR garnered some attention, but, genuine question, what’s coming out of Wales right now? In the last year we’ve had FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND, KIDS IN GLASS HOUSES and THE BLACKOUT all reform, THE KENNEDY SOUNDTRACK are making new music again...but, where are the NEW bands? Well today we’ll be fishing in that musical gene pool, to see what Wales has to offer, courtesy of this submission by PENNY RICH.

The three-piece, consisting of vocalist/guitarist Anthony B, vocalist/bassist Chris Hampson and drummer Tobias O’Reilly, are a Cardiff-based, punk-inspired trio, that have been grinding away since their formation in 2016. They’ve earned their stripes playing low-key bars, and low-capacity club venues, honing their craft, supporting other up-and-coming peers, to the point where BBC Radio Wales’ host Adam Walton, described them as “Noisy and great”. After a couple of EPs, 2023 finds them releasing their debut full-length album on Friday, April 14th, entitled “If Everyone’s An Expert...”. The question is, if Adam Walton is an expert, what does noisy and great ACTUALLY mean? There’s only one way to find out.

The album opens with “View From The Shallow End”, and no this isn’t a POV from the nonce at your local leisure centre’s swimming facilities, what we do have, is a cleverly created instrumental narrative, that utilises fear without words to create a chain of thought. It’s looking into that deep end figuratively and literally...the deeper you go, the darker it gets, and it plays on the connection with mental health, negative thinking, dismay even, as you look ahead and see nothing but challenge and struggle, danger perhaps, and with just the use of guitars. It may only be brief, but its ominous delivery is enough to at least engage the listener mentally.

First track proper is the most recent single “Spirals” which came out on April 7th, and it’s a personal journey for vocalist, Ant, as, according to the band, it’s a song about “finding futile solutions to life’s upward and downward spirals”. Ant, you see has OCD and body dysmorphia from underlying perfectionism issues, and the song tackles his opinions on fad diets, routine changes, and all the things that help benefit your day-to-day life, small but positive changes in the long run, or drastic changes for extreme results. Admirable, and respect for him to want to share that with the world, but being a perfectionist, this might not be the ideal genre to portray this?

Their musical background in terms of influence has been likened to IDLES and NIRVANA, and from a Cardiff standpoint, I’d personally put them somewhere between RECLUSE and EXIT_INTERNATIONAL. They have an incredibly grunge-tinted, raw, fuzzy hardcore punk sound to them; they sound very garage-band in terms of production quality, very rough around the edges, very vocally abrasive, and it’s not something you’d assume a perfectionist would lean towards. You’d expect something cleaner and convoluted. Maybe something more prog-based? I digress.

Tonally this is hammered home in the likes of “Last Meal”, where instrumentally the likes of REFUSED poke through as influences, as the guitars and percussion, along with the frenetic vocal virulence, cements their punk-rock credentials, and it’s all wonderfully shouty and droning in a violently hypnotic manner. “S.P.A.” does offer the listener a slight respite as it slows things down considerably, opting for more of a brooding, dark indie-rock vibe, almost post-rock, and some clean vocals. It’s all very morose in presentation, providing a sort of mid-album peak, despite its depressive presentation, before we eventually close on “Downriver”.

There are certain throwback elements to our go-home track that in their own way sort of, blend the iconic, early aesthetics of JOHNNY ROTTEN and the sharp, socially poignant messages SEX PISTOLS would spit unprofessionally, while also harbouring this almost SCOTT WEILAND-esque, grunge-rich layering, especially as the track reaches its climax, where we do admittedly get more melodious instrumental hooks. It’s catchy enough in its simplicity, while retaining that almost sludgy core sound, and doesn’t lose a great deal of the bands character in the long run, but is it enough to render this a record worth investing in?

Granted there are ears for all genre’s; you’ll always find fans for your niche, subgenre, cult, whatever, and as stated, if you do appreciate these, raw punk aesthetics, with deeper grunge influences, for an overall, fuzzier, sludgy slab of musical mire, just short of say, low-key acid-punk? You may find something to enjoy or at least respect here. Myself, if I go by the full track name, “If Everyone’s An Expert, What’s Left To Be Learnt”, my answer is this, I’m no expert, but Adam Walton click baited me. What I mean by that is, the band are called Penny Rich, and if for example I saw them busking in Cardiff, I would take a penny, and throw it in a fountain, or a drain, (Either one) and make a wish. That wish would be to not hear Penny Rich busking. Either that or give them 10p and ask for 9p change, and THEN throw the 9p down the drain, coin by coin. That sounds evil...I’ll end on a high note, they’re better than SLEAFORD MODS, but that’s not fucking hard, is it?

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