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Pens - Hey Friend, What You Doing?

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Artist: Pens

Album: Hey Friend, What You Doing?

Label: De Stijl

Review date: Oct. 15, 2009


Pens - "High in the Cinema" (Hey Friend, What You Doing?)


Being British and female and (ahem) not especially virtuosic on their respective instruments, Pens have naturally been compared to the Raincoats and the Slits in just about every review of their debut album Hey Friend, What You Doing? Fair enough. There certainly are similarities, but Pens have more of a straight-ahead punk sound than either of those legendary groups.

The band claims the X tune "Delta 88" as their biggest influence, and just about every track on the album dwells in that general vicinity as far as tempo and energy go (i.e. fast and spastic, often with unison or call-and-response vocal parts). And while easy comparisons could be made to current American lo-fi groups like Wavves, Psychedelic Horseshit and Times New Viking, something in the tone of these ladiesí guitars and keyboards is more immediately reminiscent of Lightning Bolt or even Marnie Stern.

Hey Friend, What You Doing? is a sloppy, often badly-recorded mess, and I mean that in the most flattering way possible. There canít be more than five or six notes on the entire record, the crash cymbals are ear-piercingly loud and distorted, and there are definitely a couple of tracks that I wouldnít hesitate to skip past. But the songs that do work, among them "Horsies," "High In The Cinema" and "Freddy," suggest an innate talent for pop songwriting that will hopefully be even more fully realized on their next LP.

And even though Hey Friend isnít a great record from start to finish, itís hard to fault something that is so clearly the product of three people being creative and having a great time making music together. The bandís energy and enthusiasm definitely comes through, and it sort of makes you wish you were right there in the room playing along with them.

By Rob Hatch-Miller

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