Penguin Cafe. A matter of Life


The reviews for this album have mostly been a little patronising and mildly dismissive as if it is some form of PCO lite offering.

I beg to differ.

I am, almost literally, a lifelong PCO fan and have every track they ever recorded, from the experimental Zopf days on the Obscure record label right through their “heydays’ of the 1980’s when their unique musical sound appeared on every second commercial or BBC/C4 soundtrack (most notably I have to say in the Independent’s launch advertising campaign).  So Simon Jeffes’ death in 1987 hit me like a hammer blow.  Ten years later his son, Arthur, began the slow but steady cryogenic rebirth, or perhaps more accurately the creation of a clone with ideas of its own.  This has culminated in the release of this instant classic album, a matter of life, which is, to all intent and purpose, PCO’s 5th studio album.

It has more piano than PCO but other than that it’s broadly the same thing, and certainly cut from the same cloth.

Track 2 (Landau) feature Jeffes and Kathry Tickell on her trademark Northumbrian pipes and its delicious.  Harry Piers, another piano only track was played at Jeffes Sr’s memorial concert and it bears every trademark PCO motif you could ever imagine which is what makes it both a great epitaph for Simon Jeffes but perhaps also a catharsis for Arthur.

The Fox and the Leopard is a carbon copy of a previous PCO song but for me the absolute standout is the minor key classic, From a Blue Temple.

In Penguin Cafe’s second album I’d expect the music to be slightly less of a tribute and to explore more of their own ideas, maybe more of a development from From a Blue Temple; and given that members of Suede and Gorillaz make up the 10 strong ensemble I’m pretty sure there will be new areas aplenty to explore.

For now though, this is a welcome and delightful discovery that I will treasure and hopefully wear out the grooves as much as its four forebears.

5 thoughts on “Penguin Cafe. A matter of Life

  1. Glad it’s good – mine has arrived but haven’t had a chance to listen yet.

    PS how come it’s £10 on their website but £15 at the concert?

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    • generally at a concert, merchandise is at a premium to offer the venue a cut, transportation of the product and presumably they had to pay someone to work behind the stand?

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  2. Have now played it several times and it is every bit as good as you say and gets better with repeated listening. Harry Piers, Landau and That Not That are the tracks for me.

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  3. I’ve only played a few minute-long samples so far, but I’m thrilled to have stumble across this discovery.
    I was simply checking the Wikipedia for some PCO facts that had crossed my mind when their discography caught my eye .. .. . “wait . . . WHAT release in 2011 !?”
    I also feel I should point out your apparent finger-slip when writing the review above :
    You wrote “So Simon Jeffes’ death in 1987 hit me like a hammer blow”.
    If you can still re-edit, you may wish to change that to the correct “1997”.
    Those 10 further years we all had him are not to be typo’d away, no ?

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