Punk never dies, or so they say. Punk either dies young and beautiful, or ends up selling butter and having opinions on things. Punk’s mortality is up to you, the reader, to muse on, but what we do know is that punk’s an ever changing animal, a philosophy, a movement. Punk’s not a look, sound, feel, it’s a thought. You can be punk, your granny can be punk, your dog can be punk.

In fact, you could argue that the grime stars of today are the punk rockers of yesterday; anti-establishment, giving the man the finger, and generally, not giving a shit. Take for instance, Stormzy’s callout of and subsequent response from Theresa May at 2018’s BRIT awards over the Grenfell tragedy.

So what happens when punk meets grime? An unstoppable force meeting an immovable object can cause a horrendous bloody mess and make a terrible sound, right?

Well, in this instance you get PENGSHUi, and if punk’s about getting in someone’s face, PENGSHUi do get in your face, and proceed to tear it clean off. It’s hard to imagine, but their self-released, self-titled debut album will come up to you, spill your drink, blame you, and put you straight through a table, and it. Is. Fucking. Incredible!

There’s a lot going on in PENGSHUi, but it all boils down to an incredibly simple formula: dirty riffs, dirty synths, dirty slide tackles. The words and genres like “punk” and “grime” are being thrown about, but it’s all for nothing really. It takes some of the best bits of a multitude of genres, melts them down and forges a solid steel hammer that unrelentingly smashes into your ears. It’s a smash and grab assault on the senses, but expertly done, like a wrestling match. For those in the know, this is Mankind being thrown off the cell; it’s complete anarchy and chaos, but a lot of thought’s gone into it.

Right from the stomping, distorted synth of Wickedest Ones, this album doesn’t let up until the end. It’s like someone rapping over a dark Prodigy track. PENGSHUi is perfectly fine to listen to when you’re out and about, but you can’t help but feel this album was designed for a sweaty hall. You can easily see yourself in a mess of bodies, flying through the pit shouting “we are the wickedest ones!” with a few classic “OI!”s for good measure. Or starting a big, dirty circle pit to the “round and round we go” of Nobody Cares, flying back in for the chorus.

If you really can’t tell by now, this isn’t an album you can put on with a hangover and relax yourself into a functioning body. By the end of the album, you’ll feel like you’ve had your ass kicked, and it’s a very cathartic experience. At the end of the day, we want an album to capture us, excite us, and leave an indelible mark on us, and PENGSHUi does all three. The album holds you back whilst Illaman, Fatty and Prav slap you about with bars, beats and body blows. To borrow their phrase, they jump on your head like parkour.

The three members bring a real mixed bag of cultures, sounds and ideas, from metal, to jazz, to reggae, to grime, and it all marries together to create a beautiful sonic blueprint. So it’s no wonder they’re getting praise from all corners of the music world. Enter Shikari frontman Rou Reynolds is a fan (and if he hasn’t appeared on a track before the end of the decade it’ll be a crime), with praise from grime legend JME on Twitter sending Illaman’s phone into a 12 hour vibrating session. Coupled with that, The Prodigy invited them to remix Light Up The Sky from 2018’s No Tourists.

High praise, but nothing short of deserved for a band with bright ideas and an even brighter future. Weird to think they’re barely a couple of years old too, but from their first rehearsal session on Fatty’s boat, they knew they were on to something. Whilst PENGSHUi might not be everyone’s cup of tea, as is every other artist, those who enjoy things like grime, big riffs, big synths, dirty beats or big choruses will be coming back for a second cup and taking the entire teapot.

The album’s incredibly short, twelve tracks in all, eight if you discount the interludes. However, any doubts about quantity are assuaged by out-and-out quality. There’s many an album where you can say “oh it’d be perfect if it wasn’t for…”, and a handful more with bloated tracklists featuring songs that should’ve stayed locked in the studio. Not for PENGSHUi; every track and interlude earns a place on merit, and it’s all killer, no filler.

Debut albums are hard to call, you probably shouldn’t judge a band/artist’s first attempt too harshly, because like all of us, we’re learning the ropes and finding our way. However, even with harsh marking, PENGSHUi’s debut passes with flying colours. The band have apparently being waiting around ten years to put this together and send it into the world, and it’s worth the wait.

Picking a standout track from this is hard, but a special mention should be given to Nobody Cares and Rise for being two of the most rowdy, fist-pumping tracks on the album. Though as said, there’s a real focus on quality over quantity, so it’s all good, take your pick.

So, we’ve a new year, with a new decade to boot, with a completely blank canvas for an artist to paint on and claim the decade as their own. With their self-titled debut, PENGSHUi have already launched a tin of paint at the canvas and wrote their name all over it. This album will most definitely be one of 2020’s finest, and if they continue on this course, PENGSHUi could well be talked about in 2029 as one of the bands of the decade, spearheading a brand new genre with plenty of bands forming off the back of it.


Standout Tracks: Nobody Cares, Rise, Leave It

For Fans Of: Enter Shikari, The Prodigy, Ho99o9, Big Dirty Riffs

Written by: Oliver Butler