Get in on the landslide.
October 17, 2010 10:27 AM   Subscribe

Meet "The Count of Pennsylvania". Has it been over 20 years since he was "Romeo in blue jeans", "burning canyons for you"? Michael Penn hasn't had success in the music biz like his brother Sean in the movies, but he's still making good music, and pops up from time to time, like in the "House" soundtrack with a song referencing a different hospital. His latest song is so far available only as a YouTube clip recorded in a living room, but the first verse did show up on a blog right before the LAST election, showing how its overtly political theme has evolved in a short time.
posted by oneswellfoop (26 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Wasn't it Romeo in black jeans? I could swear it was...

/too lazy to google
posted by Mister_A at 10:35 AM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

posted by tula at 10:36 AM on October 17, 2010

Black Jeans and the song is actually named No Myth.
posted by Babblesort at 10:39 AM on October 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

Thanks SO much for sticking that earworm riiiight back into my head.
posted by Madamina at 10:43 AM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Re: black jeans vs. blue jeans... D'OH!
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:46 AM on October 17, 2010

Oh, man, look what the cat drug in.
posted by adipocere at 10:47 AM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

He's done a lot of film score work, including "Boogie Nights."
posted by candyland at 10:50 AM on October 17, 2010

Love him. Love his wife, Aimee Mann
posted by dorkydancer at 10:51 AM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

"No Myth" - one of the archetypal "songs named something other than what anyone would expect it to be named".
posted by Joe Beese at 10:53 AM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I never knew that Michael Penn was Sean Penn's brother. My mind is blown.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:07 AM on October 17, 2010

"Look What the Cat Dragged In" is a song I've never been able to get completely out of my head since I heard it nearly 20 years ago. I should really download that whole album some time.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:43 AM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

And, after looking it up, I see that the song is actually called "Long Way Down." Still, it's a pretty great song.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:46 AM on October 17, 2010

Man, I SO wish he was on a recording schedule that was something more often than every 3 or 4 or 5 years. I've had at least one MP song on my ipods since my first one, which was a 10 gig with the ole click wheel.
posted by nevercalm at 11:51 AM on October 17, 2010

I never realized that Michael Penn is great until now. He is great.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:48 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was semi-obsessed with Michael Penn for awhile, especially those first two or three albums. Great musician. Always thought he was going to be big, too, but then again I thought Grant Lee Philips was going to be huge, so what do I know?
posted by scody at 1:25 PM on October 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's like a blast from a time machine ..... an era when quirky oddball songs like "No Myth" and "Corporate World" and most of Aimee Mann's tunes actually bubbled up and made some noticeable noise before vanishing beneath the murk.
posted by blucevalo at 1:33 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

And don't forget the Brothers Quay video for Long Way Down (Look What the Cat Drug In).
posted by Drab_Parts at 2:36 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

Michael Penn, yay! I have yet to see anyone who can write better lyrics than this man. I mean, the guy can come up with this and not be well known? Shame.
posted by Iosephus at 4:47 PM on October 17, 2010

Oooo, lovely new Michael Penn song, always the trademark of quality! It really is unaccountable that he never got to be more of a household name at least among your thinking listeners if not the masses, but you can say that about so many people: Joe Henry, Bill Callahan, ad infinitum.

I can never decide if I'd rather be adopted by Michael Penn and Aimee Mann or Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:53 PM on October 17, 2010

i read that as "burning crayons for you" and i'm really dissapointed
posted by kitchenrat at 5:30 PM on October 17, 2010

I had this CD, No Myth. My ex wife hated it. Thanks for reminding me how good it really is.
posted by Xoebe at 8:12 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this - I've always loved Michael Penn. But sometimes I think the reason he hasn't had more success with his music is that he's not nearly as interested in success as he is in winning some trophy that only he knows about for "World's Most Obscure Lyricist."

"Bunker Hill" from the first record is a good example, but all his stuff is like this:

My baby sees every sentence with an underline
never uses turpentine
Put out a fleece and build a kite
A siren's going off tonight
posted by Naberius at 9:18 PM on October 17, 2010

After we got one of his CDs in the mail at the ol' college radio station in 1990 or so, I was the only one to give him airplay. Some of the songs still drift around in my head here and there. If you look at work like his, and the lack of commercial success, it really drives home how disconnected popular music sales and quality music are from one another.

Having said that, for years I tried to find a copy of Beautiful Fool (from that same time period), falsely attributing it to Michael Penn, and only recently discovering it's actually Don Henry. I love that song.
posted by davejay at 11:11 PM on October 17, 2010

Oh, and of course he and Aimee Mann would be married, considering the meticulous way they each craft lyrics. If they have a child, when that child learns to read and write he/she is going to bend space-time.
posted by davejay at 11:23 PM on October 17, 2010

I never knew that Michael Penn was Sean Penn's brother. My mind is blown.

The third brother, of course, was the late Chris Penn (aka Nice Guy Eddie and other, less well-known roles). Their parents were Leo Penn (a blacklisted actor) and Eileen Ryan, both of whom had long careers on Broadway.
I spent several years trying to determine if my English Penn relatives could be their Penn relatives, but it turns out the name was Peña -- Spanish Jews who came to the US after a stint in Russia. The look makes sense now.

Penn, Mann, and a circle of singer-songwriters around Jon Brion (one of Mann's exes) have a regular audience at the LA nightclub Largo^, the philosophy of which Brion sums up as "song sluts", and which is billed as "unpopular pop". Mann and Penn also have an irregular oddball show/tour together they call Acoustic Vaudeville. It's unclear the last time they did one, though.
posted by dhartung at 12:46 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

It has happened a couple of times that on my iPod I'll have "No Myth" and "Save Me" pop up next to each other on shuffle, and it's a one-two punch that simultaneously reminds that
  1. I am unredeemably alone, unloveable, so damaged as to never find love, and should just kill myself for for the love of fuck, and
  2. that if those two crazy kids could find each other, then maybe my Juliette in black jeans is still out there somewhere, and will prove to be worth the wait.
But almost certainly not. Bang.
posted by hincandenza at 12:49 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

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