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