If the Penguin Cafe Orchestra defies categorisation - and there really isn't another group quite like the Penguins - then that's not an accident. The PCO was founded by cellist Helen Liebmann and Simon Jeffes, after Jeffes' experiences with classical and rock music left him dissatisfied with the rigidity and limitations of both forms. There may never have been a Penguin Cafe at all, though, had Jeffes not crossed paths with a tainted shrimp.
This principle held up in the music. Telephone and Rubber Band arose out of a faulty telephone exchange through which Jeffes was attempting to make a call. Hearing the ring tone and a busy signal at the same time, he recorded it on his answering machine. Music For a Found Harmonium was composed on a discarded harmonium he came across in a back street in Tokyo.
If in some alternative universe no-one (Lloyd Loar, Adolf Rickenbacker, Merle Travis, take your pick) had invented the electric guitar and classical music was left to evolve pop music of its own accord, then this is what it would sound like. Melodic, charming, moving, always fearsomely accomplished and irresistible.
Mariah Carey* would have to learn the violin or shut the f*** up. And that would of course be no bad thing.
*A probably dated cultural reference to be sure, but that much annoyance from the Queen of Pointless Vocals has a half-life of centuries.