Penitent Ben & the Petty Crimes’ self-titled debut EP has potential

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Penitent Ben & the Petty Crimes (Big Smoke)

Penitent Ben & the Petty Crimes’ self-titled debut EP frequently finds the outfit embracing a raw, rootsy style that’s centred around frontman Benjamin Mott’s guitar and voice. The best moments, however, occur when the musicians crank their amps and delve into hard-hitting rock and pop.

This is primarily due to Mott’s vocal limitations—he’s not a confident or authoritative singer, and his pitch is sometimes shaky when he strains to reach the high notes. The unadorned, live-off-the-floor production accentuates these vocal imperfections, and this is especially apparent during the collection’s stripped-down, lyric-driven numbers.

The lack of vocal polish means that the folksy tunes sometimes falter, but it’s not a problem on the noisy rockers. The fast and aggressive “Sea Monsters” is the collection’s clear standout, as Mott snarls over a spiky indie-rock arrangement of distorted strumming and atmospheric squalls of feedback. At barely two-and-a-half minutes in length, it’s by far the EP’s shortest track, and its succinct structure reinforces the punchy energy. The jauntily bouncing first half of closing cut “Twentyten” is also successful, as toe-tapping rhythms anchor a pleasantly perky pop melody.

These memorable moments show that Penitent Ben & the Petty Crimes have a bright future ahead of them, particularly if they continue to embrace upbeat, noisy sounds. On this six-song debut, however, they still seem to be figuring out where their talents lie.

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