Penguin Prison sounds a bit like Justin Timberlake, bent over and taking it from Stevie Wonder… and I mean that in the best possible way. I’m not usually one for camp (no matter how crass), but Chris Glover manages to appropriate hyper accessible, glossy, retro, synthetic soul pop in a manner that is just punk enough for me. This Thursday, the 17th, Glover, AKA Penguin Prison, put on the most inspiring show Philthy saw all week, when they double-headlined Johnny Brenda’s, alongside Class Actress.
So what is it, exactly, that is so punk about Penguin Prison, whose most prominent influences include Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, and Nat King Cole? Well, it may be that he’s not trying to sell his exquisitely composed pop tunes to masses who only “hear” about 10% of the music they’re listening to and, instead, to indie crowds who could always use a little cheering up. Or maybe it’s that his latest single, which is polished to an astounding degree, is entitled “Don’t Fuck With My Money.” Or maybe it’s that he actually gives a fuck about putting on a show… and not in a choreographed kind of way, but in the kind of way that resembles an 80s mall pop band that learned their swagger from Iggy Pop.
This Thursday night, barely three minutes into the band’s 45-minute set, Glover left the stage (for the first time) to wander nearly the entire floor of JB’s, literally roping fans in with the cord of his microphone. Penguin Prison’s music requires very little extra effort to engage an audience, but he wasn’t going to let anyone slip through the cracks… not that they wanted to. Although the crowd wasn’t exactly huge (although far from small), it was the most enthusiastic I’ve seen at the venue since The Kills graced the stage in May of 2008, and included characters that easily could’ve served as the cast to a film by Whit Stillman or John Waters.