Review Summary: One of the staples of the Punk scene since the late ’80s manages to capture their energy and dynamism on a record. One of the finest live Punk records, ever.
Ah, Pennywise. My first ‘favourite band’, as you can probably tell. When I was 15, they were the
t. Unknown Road
was probably the first album I ever paid money for, but I can’t be sure. They had just released Full Circle
when I really started liking them, and that beast of a Punk Rock album was followed up with the equally forceful Straight Ahead
in 1999. For mine, the band was peaking. Perfect time to release a live album then. Renowned for their frantic live shows, Pennywise had to release one hell of a live album to satisfy the fans who’d been blessed enough to see them perform once or twice. And they did. Live @ The Key Club
encapsulates all the energy and drive synonymous with a Pennywise live show.
I find this to be one of the ‘purest’ live albums I’ve heard. Not because of the fact that the set-list is typical 2000-era Pennywise, and not because it is as powerful and passionate as you’d expect from Pennywise live, but because it is actually a live show. The band played at the Key Club in West Hollywood in May 2000 for 51 minutes, and here are those 51 minutes on a CD. No chopping and changing between four nights recorded at the same place and going with the best recordings of each song. This is how it was – classic Pennywise: no bullsh
it. Fifty minutes of forceful, cacophonous Punk Rock from four blokes at the top of their games. This album rounded off a stellar three years for the band, with the release of most of their strongest work, and a palpable sense of reformation after the tragedy of former-bassist Jason Thirsk’s suicide in 1996.
Sometimes the songs are rushed, sometimes they are a tad sloppy, sometimes they are spot on, but they all share one thing in common: the passion and energy that has embodied the band since day one outshines everything else. No Reason Why
, far from the most outstanding song of the band’s back catalogue, and a performance here far from the band’s finest, still manages to impart all the character of its original. Each time we hear “This song was written by Jason Matthew Thirsk” (which is a few times) you sense that this album was in some way a final tribute to their former mate, who without Pennywise would not exist. This is seen nowhere more prominently than on the legendary rendition of Pennywise anthem numero uno Bro Hymn
iconic Pennywise song, with its wordless chorus and ever-present riff, is the benchmark for all of their shows. They (the band and the crowd) smashed this version with five-and-a-half hectic minutes full of sentiment (Justin Thirsk’s appearance on the tubs and his screaming of the encore of the first verse). Jim’s words leading in to the legendary bass intro illustrate just how close the band came to splitting in 1996, and how important the loyal fan-base has been to the band.
It’s fair to say that the back half of the album is chocked full with most of the gold. Kicking off at track 11 with the brash, relentless Society
, we are treated to 25 minutes of unwavering power and what is generally described as a wall of noise. The cover of Minor Threat
’s eponymous song is a fitting tribute to the band’s ’70s and ’80s influences, while the raucous rendition of Pennywise
is wild and loose and brilliantly crazy. The About Time
singles Perfect People
and Same Old Story
round out the last of the older material before we head to the big finish with a stirring rendition of Alien
and, of course, Bro Hymn
. But while it’s true that the second half is the stronger and more consistent, the forceful performances of Homesick
and Fight Till You Die
are undoubted highlights. Special mention also needs to go to the rejuvenated version of one of the band’s oldest songs, 1988’s Final Chapters
. This version shi
ts all over the original.
Apart from the emotion and intensity of a Pennywise show captured on this record, the cross-section of the band’s work is another definite highlight. There is the same amount of songs from 1991’s self-titled album as there is from 1999’s Straight Ahead
, released little more than a year earlier than this album. Perhaps the only complaint could be the lack of Broken
or Victim Of Reality
, but nonetheless most Pennywise fans will be more than happy with this line-up. And it’s fitting that the band got that right. They seemed to get everything right for a few years there leading up to the release of this live record. This stellar live album was the perfect cap to a brilliant period in the life of one of the mainstays of the So-Cal Punk scene of the last 20 years. Essential listening and owning for any self-respecting Pennywise fan. This is how you do
a live album.