Jennie Matthias

Mick Jenner - Peeping Tom review

After more than two years in the making, Jennie Matthias is finally launching her album, Peeping Tom. It’s been a long journey since the days of The Belle Stars so I couldn’t wait to hear what was in store for us long-time fans.

Jennie has a varied résumé in the music world, from touring with the likes of The Clash, Police and Madness (on the ‘7’ Tour with the Belle Stars in 1981), dueting on the last single by The Jam to a much more recent collaboration with Lee Thompson as The Dance Brigade. Her latest incarnation is 1-STOP-EXPERIENCE. Started two and half years ago, it has featured many musicians and writers with Jennie being the constant driving force.

On first listening to the album my overwhelming feeling is how varied the tracks are and how well they have been put together. The two year process is evident when you hear the work that has gone into the production, largely by Jennie Matthias, Skip McDonald, Paget King and producer Adrian Sherwood, who has worked with the likes of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. It is unmistakably a SKA album but you don’t have to be a 40 something balding meat head to appreciate it. There are full on skanking tracks like ‘Bring It On’ and ‘Headless Chicken’ but these are balanced with the much more subtle ‘Love’ and ‘Don’t Wanna Be’.

The title track, ‘Peeping Tom’ gets us off to an atmospheric start. Almost seedy in its sound, this is obviously about the incredible amount of CCTV cameras we now have in our society but with just the hint that something more sinister is behind the lens. ‘Untouchable’ charts the progress, or lack of, a diva-ish groupie trying to get VIP access to the best gigs in town with the brilliant line:

‘’How dare you refuse me? Don’t you know who I am? I’m the queen of Diva’s…Understand?’’

A couple more tracks I have to mention are ‘Without Love’ which is an ingenious SKA homage to the ‘Hava Nagila’ type Jewish wedding theme and ‘Hope’ which was written a couple of years ago as an antidote to the credit crunch. The intro has an incredibly mellow yet uplifting feel but still manages to keep the SKA off beat and I defy anybody not to be inspired by this track. There is even a song which is about the media hungry types like Katie Price called ‘Fame game’:

‘’Now everybody knows your name. They see the price you pay for fame. There’s no one else but you to blame. Everybody thinks that you’re insane’’

After the musical journey of the 13 preceding songs, the album closes with ‘And I Said’ which is an incredibly personal song written by Jennie and is her letter to the big man upstairs asking for a better world for us all. In these turbulent times when we are supposed to be ‘’all in it together’’, a message of good will and hope for others seems the perfect way to end this uplifting collection.

In summing up, this album achieves on many levels. The subject matter is varied; each track has its own feel, probably due to the many collaborations, while remaining true to the SKA ethos. For me though, this really is Jennie Matthias from the heart and, I suspect, the album that she has had inside for many years. And as such, I feel it’s almost her coming of age album. I would probably sum this album up in two words;

Intelligent SKA.

And good news for collectors, in an age where music is increasingly delivered to our player of choice via a telephone line in a scramble of binary digits (in a way I still can’t comprehend), this album comes as a real CD with full colour booklet containing pictures and lyrics to all of the 14 original tracks. It is on sale now through the 1-STOP-EXPERIENCE web store but there is a limited number available before the official launch party (on Sunday 30th October 2011).

I strongly suggest you get along to this unique event as 1-STOP-EXPERIENCE gigs are about as rare as honest bankers!!

Mick Jenner
19 September 2011