I have a friend who is an 80's devotee and I couldn't help but think of him as I scorched my way through this disc from Pen Pal. Even if you tend to dismiss the 80's as the decade of heavy metal, hairspray and synthesizers, you're still left with a majority of songs that are happy, be-boppy or, if nothing else, devoid of the angst that has characterized the alternative movement of the 1990's. So when Pen Pal reached to me, it was like something I had heard about ten years ago. Although the band tiptoes its way around cliches like negotiating a minefield, the band is successful.
The first thing you will probably notice about this CD is there are no lyrics like "The world sucks/ so blow up the outside world." In fact, guitarist/lyricist/brainchild of Pen Pal. David Greenberg is so happy-go-lucky on the surface, you might puke. In the hypnotizing opening track, "Et Cetera," he's basically dismissing a past relationship that didn't go as planned. Seeing things through rose colored glasses seems to be Pen Pal's approach to life.
And it's a philosophy that carries itself through the entire CD. Bringing out the synthesizer in "Dumb" brings back images of any number of 80's bands like O.M.D. or Depeche Mode. And then, adding the lyrics, "I want to be dumb/ It's so hard to get so smart/ And still be happy/ I want to be dumb" definitely echoes the buoyancy of the 80's.
So, in general, this is peppy, high-spirited music. Pen Pal may be able to find their niche in the national music scene as the counter-angst music movement continues to develop and as the rebirth of 80's acts like the recent New Edition reunion continue to compete with modern acts for attention. For those sick of "I hate my life" songs, switch to Pen Pal.