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Experimental feature

The mockney crew of young singer-songwriters joyriding into the mainstream grows apace. To the roll-call of Lily Allen, Jamie T and Kate Nash, add Jack Peñate, a buff (so the girls say), if rather burly, 23-year-old from Blackheath, London. Should you get confused, refer to “LDN Is a Victim”, the anonymous MySpace mickey-take that namechecks them all while poking fun at Peñate’s private-school background.

With fellow scenesters The Maccabees and Johnny Flynn waiting in the wings, it is as though some pop Fagin – I picture Suggs from Madness, since most sound more or less like they have been weaned on his band’s ska blend – were sending them out to pick a chart position or two. Peñate’s first single proper, the oikily breathless “Torn on the Platform”, reached No 7 in Britain this June; his next, the equally hectic “Second, Minute or Hour”, released this week, could go higher, judging by how both tracks are yelled in unison by tonight’s capacity crowd.

To fill the Astoria’s gloriously grotty terraces before your debut album hits the shelves is quite an achievement – and testifies to the apparent swiftness of success in the download era. Yet Peñate has spent most of the year working up a head of steam at smaller venues. With a rapid-fire drummer and a bouncing bassist, he is a kinetic live performer. His knock-kneed shimmy, loved by the audience, has not been seen since Shakin’ Stevens exited via “The Green Door”.

Their staccato riffs owing plenty to The Jam, or The Housemartins on speed, Peñate’s songs jitter with suburban energy. They are nagging tunes alright, recalling Paul Weller’s muscular soulfulness but lacking his early aggro and ambition. “My Yvonne”, a romantic ballad sung with Adele, another London yoof, was just sappy. Visions of Peñate fronting a new Beautiful South, a decade hence, sprang alarmingly to mind. His cover of Beats International’s “Dub Be Good to Me”, however, like a choirboy’s smash-and-grab raid, perished the thought.

Rockabilly raffish, Peñate’s jagged little thrills warmed up autumn’s first chilly night. Supported by an extensive tour, that album, Matinee, should breeze into the top 10 on October 8. Like alcopops, though, does he yet offer more than a quick buzz?
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