Review Summary: A satisfying album from one of Japan's indie-post punk legends.
Penpals were one of those bands from Japan that had a main goal since its incarnation in terms of sound: balls-to-the wall post punk with a nice, indie edge. Granted some of Penpals's material bordered straightforward punk (especially their later material), but, for the most part, Penpals seemed to be more of a post punk band than anything. On their debut album, Penpals create an ambitious sound which collides a DIY indie rock sound with their typical post punk style, a sound that not many bands in the Japanese rock field attempted previously. Penpals dare to go where no other band in Japan went before, and, naturally, it worked wonders.
The album starts off with "Astro Motel", which follows a slightly southern-esqued guitar riff with the band caving in around it. An interesting style, and an addictive one at that. A splendid introductory song, to say the least. "Cars", one of the band's most well known tracks, follows a moody style which sounds reminiscent to traditional post punk. The song itself is easily one of the album's brightest moments and solid tracks. "70 Times" is another fantastic track which follows a nostalgic, 90's-esqued style, equipped with traditional indie elements flown in all over the place. The song, while it may sound incredibly dated, is a fantastic piece in terms of nostalgic purposes, and 90's rock fans may easily fall in love with this track alone. "Tonight", while a more basic track in terms of sound, is helped tremendously by the sheer ambition by the group. Their energy and ambition as a group is what saves it from being yet another disposable, 90's post punk track. It's that kind of energy which separates Penpals from the rest of the competition in the 1990's Japanese rock scene. They can take a basic, bare-boned track which any indie-esqued band can play, and turn it into gold by their sheer musicianship and infectious energy.
While their debut album may not be the most technical album in the bunch, and certainly not their most diverse one, their 1997 debut shows the group instantly blossoming within its own genre of indie fronted post-punk which would have left many bands in that day envious. An ambitious bite from the post-punk stars themselves, their debut shows them cleverly plotting a path which would take them to the top of indie rock in the later part of the 1990's. Definitely recommended to 90's rock fans who crave nostalgia. This album shouldn't let you down as, while it may be dated, the album still maintains a respectable indie crunch which should satisfy the urges of indie kids all over the globe for decades to come.