Review
Northern State
Can I Keep This Pen?

Ipecac (2007) Kevin Fitzpatrick

Northern State – Can I Keep This Pen? cover artwork
Northern State – Can I Keep This Pen? — Ipecac, 2007

Can I Keep This Pen? is Northern State's third full-length album and it proves that any and all naysayers dismissing the group as a novelty act can just get in that boat and float right to Camden.

I admit, I was once one of those aforementioned naysayers. I mean

. what can you say about three chicks from suburban Long Island that put out rap albums? Like it or not - you hear about the band, you're going to have preconceived notions. Then you hear the band and guess what? It sounds like three chicks from suburban Long Island that put out a rap album. One notion that you probably didn't have, however - is that it would be good. And that, my friends is why you will feel foolish. Sheepish, in fact. Northern State write good songs. They write fun songs. They write fun songs that could easily be featured in an opening montage of an episode of Grey's Anatomy interspersed with shots of all those cute doctors dancing around in that house they live in before they go to work and bone each other.

Reviewer's Note: The preceding portion of the review was written soon after the album's release. In an unheralded and most impressive display of Criswell-like foretelling, songs from this album have been featured not once but twice so far on this season of Grey's Anatomy, confirmed by both the band website and my incessant watching of the show which makes me not at all gay, but somehow more masculine in a new Renaissance kind of way.

Northern State don't front. They don't pretend to have any cache of street credibility, which manages to make them all the more credible. They're cute as buttons and sassy as hell* but that doesn't mean they won't kick your ass on the mic.

I'm at the ice cream social and I'm having a ball / I'm giving pounds to y'all / I'll rhyme in Espanol / O te lo digo in italiano tambian / Cuz I'm a guinea hen just like Sofia Loren

Let's see Sister Souljah pull that one off.

Northern State continues the spirit of hip-hop without fear of prejudice. Back in the day, you couldn't be white and be taken seriously in the field. You couldn't be female. And you sure as shit couldn't rep the parkway as they so proudly do.

Can I Keep This Pen marks a slight left turn with songs like "Better Already" and "Away Away," two bubbly pop songs that showcase the true vocal talents of Spero, Hesta, and Sprout that bring to mind at times both Le Tigre and The Breeders.

Northern State is not a novelty act. They are not a guilty pleasure. There is no shame in the proclamation that Northern State is cool-as-shit. They are a frothy crab bisque for your jaded soul. They will make you feel better when you are ill. Give you energy when you are listless. They are musical geritol for your tired, tired blood.

*Two never-before used adjectives in all my years of writing and heretofore retired so that they may never be used again.

Northern State – Can I Keep This Pen? cover artwork
Northern State – Can I Keep This Pen? — Ipecac, 2007

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