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Penny - The Clockforth Movement

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Artist: Penny

Album: The Clockforth Movement

Label: Plague Language

Review date: Feb. 20, 2003

The Rasputina of Hip Hop

Penny doesn't talk about her talents as a rapper. She doesn't talk about the decrepit state of hip hop at large, or how insulted she is by rappers that aren't on her level. What she does is actually pretty, uh, fresh.

This is the sort of hip hop record that might come from an 11-year-old latch-key kid with Asperger's syndrome, left home over summer vacation to explore her neurotic folks' rickety old B&B. While she's preternaturally observant, she can't exactly spy on anyone because she's not quite sure how to put together the information. While she's painfully sensitive to the domestic tension - and able to articulate it in multisyllabic terms - one doesn't get the feeling she's engaged enough to be more pissed off than simply interested. And listening to her can be exhausting. She seems in a hurry to get it all down before it slips away, and she lacks empathy. She makes up for it in charm, natch.

Most of Penny's tracks sound like discombobulations of "Classical Gas" or various late '60s film soundtracks, but there's a lot of shit in there that's not so easily classified. That's one thing about Penny's overwhelmingly playful persona: You don't notice the tracks that much. She stays in step with the plodding, nondescript beats, but this ain't no RJD2 record. In fact, calling it "hip hop" might attract the wrong sort of attention. The Clockforth Movement is - not to continue putting too fine a point on it - too self-involved to uphold the four fundamentals. This is Penny's show.

How much do you pay attention to the paint jobs on your CDs? (Assuming a few of your CDs aren't burns.) You might want to ignore the face of The Clockforth Movement, at least the first time through. It's essentially a printout of the disc's ace in the hole: A surprisingly clever religious/e-mail joke that's better heard than described. Why Penny decided to put it right there on the CD - so we can see it coming - I don't know.

The annoying yammerer from Clouddead shows up repeatedly, which is hardly The Clockforth Movement's lone flaw. But, assuming you want to call it hip hop, it's something new under the great, graffiti-tagged sun - something that makes Antipop Consortium sound like Juvenile - and deserves a freshly swabbed ear.

By Emerson Dameron

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