The Pencils – Anthology (2012)

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Here’s a band so obscure and long forgotten that even the most voracious vinyl collector probably isn’t even aware of their existence.

Formed in 1980, the Pencils featured singer and guitarist Tony Skeggs, singer and bassist Den Pugsley, keyboardist Rick Birmingham and drummer Andy Wells. Based in Hertfordshire, England, the band gigged locally for three years before throwing in the towel. They further deposited a trio of singles, which were given a bit of regional airtime and received encouraging reviews.

The Pencils also cut a full-length album, that until recently was believed to have never been properly released. So what a surprise it was, especially for the band members, to discover X Records, located in Germany, issued the disc in 1984. And that leads us to Anthology (Kool Kat Musik), which not only entails the supposedly lost album, but everything else the Pencils ever put to tape. Coupling old-fashioned rock and roll values with a contemporary curve, the Pencils played pure pop for now people. The band rarely tampered with the recipe, implying they were seriously committed to the style. Potent songwriting sensibilities, amplified by synchronized musicianship and earnest energy contributed to the band’s ability to make their material rise above pedestrian pop rock practices.

A two record set, Anthology contains a spate and a half of absurdly infectious tracks. Managed by rounds of ringing guitars, upbeat rhythms, keen keyboard arrangements and meticulously sculpted hooks, “I Won’t Lie,” “Watching The Tears,” “Steal Your Love,” “Running Out Of Time,” “Thin White Lies,” “Wishing I Was Him,” “She‘s So Good,” “You Say You,” “If You Really Wanna Hurt Somebody” and “Spin Me Over” pedal in as just a quick peek at some of the top grade tunes your ears will encounter.

Brassy vocals, advanced by a touch of soul, bring to mind those of Peter Case during his days with the Nerves and the Plimsouls, while drifts of sweet, smooth and jubilant harmonies akin to the Rubinoos, stand as additional attributes padding the band’s melody heavy songs.

Although smashing power pop sounds direct the show, the Pencils weren’t entirely limited to the genre. For example, “The Circus Lost A Clown” is a sophisticatedly structured ballad, sighing to the tenor of a somber mood, and then there’s the reggae flavored “Paper Heart” and the dreamy psychedelic swirl of “Love So Strange,” which summons the specter of John Lennon to surrealistic effects.

Swarming with catchy songs, Anthology proves over and over again what an incredibly great band the Pencils were.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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