Fitting in perfectly amongst the pioneers of 2009's musical explosion of 'beach/noise punk' al No Age, Japandroids and Wavves - all girl garage pop trio PENS make energetic and noisy punk-pop with bite. The sample track I picked up 'Freddy', gave me very high hopes, but to be honest, across the whole album there's not much in the way of structure, melody, tune, lyrics, subtlety or any particular creativity; most of the chord sequences are borrowed and re-used, and to top it off, the terrible microphone PENS used during their recording with De Stijl records means that the lyrics (or intermittent girly screams and shouts) are barely audible above the grinding overdrive on the amps.
As bad as that may sound, there is definitely something strangely satisfying about listening to all-girl musical chaos - and as much as I appreciate finely tuned songwriting, grand arrangements and experimental instrumentation - it is sometimes, for one reason or another, more satisfying to listen to a band that know full well but don't care in the slightest that the music they make sounds awful. Album opener Horsies, coupled with mid-album (and my sampler) Freddy are the standout tracks, not only because for the latter the usual clattering of drums is dubbed down, but also because for once the guitar follows a nice simple, cascading sequence and regular punk-pop beat, taking the song as far away as possible from the usual 70s rock caricatures which clutter the rest of the album.
At the end of the day, PENS do nothing groundbreaking, but through turning their volume notches up to 10, shouting, screaming and giving their guitars a workout they come dangerously close to putting out a decent debut. They're perfectly within fashion, but whether anything of hey friend other than Freddy is going to mean a thing to anyone five years down the line remains to be seen. As with synthpop in the 80s, shoegaze in the 90s and indie rock in the 00s - there's following fashion, and then there's sounding cliche.
Hey Friend, What You Doing? on Amazon for less than $3.
read my introduction post for more information and more mp3s.
File Next To - Wavves/Best Coast/Dum Dum Girls