Review Summary: A brilliant return to form with a new frontman.All or Nothing
is Pennywise's first album since 2008's Reason to Believe
, and the band's first album since new vocalist Zoli Teglas replaced Jim Lindberg in 2009. Lindberg had been with the band since its formation in 1988, and although the band's career held some of the most energetic and purely entertaining punk rock to break through to the mainstream, 20 years of making music that more often than not seemed to simply echo that common motif of fighting the system may have taken its toll on the band. Their 2003 and 2005 albums felt lazier and less inspired than their previous work, and although their last album showed a bit of a return to form for the band, it failed to live up to the band's full potential. Replacing a vocalist is always a big move, and when you do it despite your recent work not being up to par, it reeks of a band past their prime desperately struggling to stick around.
Pennywise is a band that succeeds and thrives completely on raw, heartfelt energy. It's why the band started to fail around the time they started working on their seventh studio album, and it's also the reason that a new frontman is able to completely revitalize the band and help them make their best album in over a decade. The material here isn't much different from what we've heard in the past. Every track is aggressive, and a lot of the time it serves as that negative commentary on authority that we're all very familiar with. It's nothing new, but thankfully it all sounds like it's written and performed by a youthful and freshly created band instead of one where the members have been doing this for half of their lives. The album kicks off with the fast, high-energy title track that utilizes perfectly placed backing vocals to create a genuinely youthful-sounding chorus, “We'll never know until we try. The time is now it's all or nothing!” Zoli's vocals often find themselves in harmony with the backing vocalists, which could be one or all three of the other members of the band, and when his vocals are on their own, the interplay with the guitar work meshes just as perfectly. It's shown best in “Revolution”, which is a rebellious call to arms with an undeniably infectious sing-along chorus of “Whoa-oh-oh, we want a revolution!”
With a couple of important exceptions, there's not a lot of departure from a common structure of the songs. Angsty verses almost always give way to choruses that rely on soaring vocals and helpful backing vocals. Lyrics consistently have similar themes of seizing the day or “*** government assistance/All we need is resistance.” It's the album's biggest flaw, but there's a lot of variation elsewhere that breaks up a bit of the monotony. There's a very different mood and a lot of depth to be found in the delivery on certain tracks. “We Have It All” is a song about hopeful expectations, juxtaposing depressing feelings with wishful thinking, where the chorus proclaims “Whoa, yeah! We have it all right now,” and the verses sing “When it seems that you won't make it/You just can't give up on today.” “Tomorrow” takes a left turn after a catchy chorus into a moving guitar solo, and then switches into a brilliantly executed vocal interplay between Zoli and the rest of the band.
There are twelve tracks here that average around three minutes each, and despite a slight overarching similarity on all of them, most tracks enter and exit quickly enough and have enough fresh ideas and raw energy to keep the album from getting stale at any point. The band suffers from the same flaws that it always has, but this is Pennywise at their best. It's not the most original thing you'll hear out of the genre, but it never intended to be. All or Nothing
gives everything you could have hoped for out of the band, and it's energetic fun from start to finish.