Michael Penn Mr Hollywood Jr. 1947

It seems the couple that makes concept albums together stays together. With squeeze Aimee Mann fresh off her tales of a skewed romance, Michael Penn returns after five years with his tales of a skewed world. Leaving nothing to the listener, Penn goes on about the various historical points of 1947, but he also states "The point is, this isn’t what the record’s about, but it’s the sepia world it occupies,” and this world provides an interesting mix of both straightforward songs and little vignettes to provide a touch of atmosphere and for both, some work better than others. "Walter Reed” provides an earnest, upbeat opener, but the real hooks are left for "You Know How,” which will delight earlier Penn fans and those who just go for uncomplicated folk-inflected rock in the vein of, surprise, Aimee Mann. As for the vignettes, it is only "The Television Set Waltz,” with its radio crackle and echoed clarinet that really provides any kind of weighty atmosphere to the concept, as the others are too wispy to make any kind of contribution. Stuck in the past with a slight eye to the future, Penn has made an interesting, but not wholly captivating, musical statement. (Spinart)