Pens - Hey Friend! What You Doing?

A certain sniffiness has met the release of Hey Friend ... as if the likes of Vivian Girls and Times New Viking were the extent of some kind of lo-fi quota and that no-one else is allowed to play - especially uppity youths from the capital. Ignore the doubters: this an entertaining and sometimes thrilling debut that throws a defiant V-sign at notions of musical aptitude, fashion and whatever overblown nonsense you're being fleeced 50 quid (plus fees) to see down the local rugby stadium.

Pens are probably closest to Skinned Teen in their instrument-swapping and Slits-influenced disdain for anything as patriarchal as keeping a steady beat. They also share the former's penchant for playground derived sing-song melodies that - on occasion - slip into moments of Frumpies-like sheer unlistenability but what's a little dissonance between buddies?

But for the most part it's all about the urgency of boredom and the tedium of pent-up energies with nowhere to go. The lyrics are largely unintelligible (or maybe they're just delivered in teen code) so all you're left with are the chocolate box drums, surprisingly catchy riffs and sometimes supersweet melodies, as on 'I Sing Just For You'. 'Networking' and 'Cry Baby' channel everything you liked about Yeah Yeah Yeahs before they decided bad disco was a good career move and 'Freddie' takes Helen Love-style bubblegum pop to levels of diabetes-threatening excess.

As their mums used to say: "This is happening without your permission." The kids are still alright.



out of 10

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