Review Summary: Pennywise at their most forceful and focused. This is a band that is back at the top of their game.
When Pennywise released Full Circle
back in 1997 it started to become apparent that they had lost their will to do anything other then just go through the motions of playing standard melodic punk. The four albums that have been released since Full Circle
have solidified that notion as they have all been extremely similar to each other, and despite the quality of the music, they still sounded like a band that was uninterested in what they were playing. When this album started streaming on Myspace most dismissed it as another chapter in the band’s apathetic approach to punk, and I’ll admit that my half-assed listens to their Myspace page elicited the same response.
Based on my initial impression of the album, I wasn’t too excited when I got the link to download their album from their Myspace page, but it was free so I did it anyway. I am happy to say that having the ability to listen to this album more closely and with better equipment, that my initial response to this album was mostly wrong. I don’t know if it was the change of labels or something else entirely, but the energy is back. From the opening notes of “As Long as We Can” to the final moments of “Die for You” the excitement and vitality of their first few albums has returned in a big way. I can’t put my finger on what it is, but there seems to be a renewed life-force to these songs; a power and focus that seems to imply that the band is revitalized and happy to be playing again.
That renewed vigor is enough to set this album apart from their past offerings already, but the band have also stepped up their playing and have seemingly made a conscious effort to incorporate elements beyond their standard punk riffs. The guitar player has stepped up his game considerably, incorporating numerous harmonies, hardcore riffs and various other subtle elements to his usual assortment of riffs. Nowhere is that more apparent then on the song “One Reason” that features various tempo changes, a melodic and catchy chorus, and a main riff that almost boarders on Metal. One element that’s never been worth talking about is the drum-work on any Pennywise album, but that has changed this time. The drummer, while still not getting near Travis Barker or Brooks Wackerman, has filled these songs with inventive beats, fills, and detail that goes far beyond the one-dimensional efforts of past albums.
I have every album that Pennywise has ever released, and I think that they’re all quality records, but I haven’t felt that the band was doing anything other then going through the motions in a while, and that has finally changed. This is the caliber of songs that the band haven’t hit since Unknown Road
or About Time
. The band seems excited to be playing again, and it shines through on this album. Of course, this is Pennywise and anyone that has heard them still knows basically what to expect, but any fan should be aware that this is Pennywise at their most focused and forceful; this is a band that is back at the top of their game.