Every so often the Random iTunes Fairy serves up a Michael Penn song and gives me an excuse to dip my toe into his five albums, the last of which was released 15 years ago, and bemoan the fact that he stopped recording pop songs in favor of work on TV and movie soundtracks.
‘Cupid’s Got a Brand New Gun’ is one of my favorite tracks from Penn’s debut album, 1989’s March. That album included the almost-top ten hit ‘No Myth’ (it reached #13 on Billboard’s Hot 100, though it did climb all the way to #4 on the Modern Rock chart) and it proved to be the commercial peak of Penn’s career.
Time for some more ‘Pure Pop,’ this time in the person of Mr. Michael Penn.
Penn’s biggest influence has always been the ultimate pop band, The Beatles, and he’s never really strayed from his winning formula.
From the “Romeo in black jeans” exuberance of his first and only hit, ‘No Myth,’ to the last track of his last album, 2005’s Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947, Penn has delivered one hook after another, demonstrating talent and consistency that his more famous contemporaries would kill for.
Best Albums of the 80s – #19
March – Michael Penn (1989)
I ranked Michael Penn’s second album, Free-For-All, higher on my list of 90s albums than his debut album sits here, but I consider them essentially equals.
Free-For-All owes its placement to a weaker field overall as well as my personal associations (it belongs to that fabled class of ’92, after all).
Nearly 20 years ago, back when I received new music from my sister and brother-in-law rather than the other way around, I was gifted two CDs as a high school graduation present. One was Elvis Costello’s King of America. The other was Michael Penn’s March.
The Costello album triggered an appreciation bordering on obsession that continues to this day. In light of that, it’s easy to dismiss the Michael Penn album as the less important or meaningful gift. But on the contrary, it too sparked an ongoing admiration for one of music’s most underrated artists.