riot girl spawned a generation of female dominated bands that sounded like they had the weight of the world on their shoulders. that, definitely, is not PENS. product of a London scene steeped in the lo-fidelity and ecstatic exuberance of US bands like No Age and Times New Viking, this all-girl trio rattle through tales of delinquency like "high in the cinema" with barely a seconds reflection. luckily, these scuzzy punk nuggets cranked out on budget organ and tinny guitar, largely succeed in transmitting the spirit of excitement they were surely conceived in.
~ louis pattinson
'Tis the season for blown out and supercharged lo-fi burners and we can't say we mind one bit. Band after band, this eruption of buzzy stumbly hook filled garage-y pop is pretty impossible not to love. Pens are a great addition to the current crop of noise-poppers like Wavves, Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, etc. Luckily they defiantly have their own take on that sound, as the record opens with what sounds like thumb piano before erupting into a full on garage pop anthem. Pens are a London trio who infuse wonderfully swirling psychedelic moments into their Shaggs like crash and burn approach to way-in-the-red and dizzyingly fucked up pop. There is something so spirited and punk rock about their sound and approach, imagine your favorite riot grrrrl band on Woodsist! Bikini Kill mixed with Wavves? You get the idea, a hectic, urgent and way damn pleasing musical ruckus!
Upon first hearing London’s Pens one could swear that they were the descendents of the shit-pop movement born in basements of the Midwest as all of the distinctive signifiers are firmly intact: the sweet and sour guitar buzz, the atonal keyboard skronk, imposing caveman percussion and gleefully shouted team-chants. While in theory that may be true (the Pens confess a love of bands of that ilk), the trio swears by the ephemeral musical moments in their teen years as the purest inspiration for the cacophony they construct. If there’s one thing to learn from Amelia, Stef and Helen, it’s that their mission is anything but mundane, pretentious or elitist. When the stark white template of lo-fi was sent via air mail in a package marked “shambolic,” they took that message to heart but insisted on splattering the canvas with bright and vibrant character. It’s not exactly the neon color blast suggested by the cover of their De Stijl debut, Hey Friend, What You Doing?, though tracks like “High in the Cinema” and “Freddie” come across as adorably motley pop songs. And it’s not exactly dunderheaded punk, though “I Heart U” and “Hide the Kids” could double as femme-fronted hardcore from a forgotten era. Somewhere in the middle Pens exist—as fleeting in cobbling together their sound as the melodies they form are in cementing themselves to the skull. That conflict leaves one wondering where these girls have been all this time that the genre has been gestating. Hiding on the internet? Playing pub enthusiasts with similar-minded punters in the U.K like Graffiti Island, Male Bonding, and Mazes? Or patiently waiting for the next wave to take them Stateside? It’s likely none of the above, as they seem too busy in writing, illustrating, and recording to give much of a care. Isn’t that how we like our rock stars—wildly indifferent?
~ Kevin J Elliot