Review Summary: The name says it all.
Pennywise is back for their twelfth studio album Never Gonna Die
. The Cali punks are best known for their standout performances in the 90’s punk scene, and what a scene it was. Groups like Black Flag, Bad Religion, NOFX all rose up during this pivotal point in American music. Such a vibrant collection of acts are rightfully scene as pioneers of sorts, which makes Pennywise all the more important. Pennywise fell on some hard times during the 2000’s. The departure of vocalist Jim Lindberg alongside some shaky albums left the group in the dust. However, Jim rejoined the group in 2012 and has since been focusing on putting Pennywise back on the map. Never Gonna Die
is probably the first full-length album with Jim in a long time. Yesterdays
was a mostly a compilation of unreleased materials and, if I remember correctly, one or two singles recorded for promotional material.
That being said, Never Gonna Die
is a return to Pennywise’s original sound. For those looking for innovation, this album is not for you. Pennywise boasts a sound closer to their original formula. Fast riffs, muted chugs, and toms crashing against your eardrums. The vocals and music complement each other a lot on this record. They all synchronize rather well with each other. Songs like ‘Live While You Can’ and ‘Never Gonna Die’ have a nice flow, and that carries on throughout the album. Cameron Webb, producer of the record, helped give the group a more polished sound this time around. There isn’t as much of a crunchy or raw tone to the guitars. Listeners can still feel the barrage of palm-muted chugs banging against their skull, but it doesn’t have that 90’s crunchy feel to them. The bass is presented a lot cleaner and the drums have more of a prominence.
The record has that a good claustrophobic feel to it. The songs are mostly under 3 minutes, constant pounding instruments, and catchy hooks slamming into the listener. Its high energy and positive attitude are sure to bring old school fans back to their skater days. The albums main focus is on familiar themes of politics, perseverance, and positivity. “Take your shots, you're gonna wear us out. The loudest voice is gonna shout 'em down,” from ‘Can’t Save You Now,’ is maintaining that revolutionary vibe Pennywise has been lacking for the past few years. “And I don't know why the cold wind blows. Man, I don't know about all I've read; I just know that our days are numbered…” gives us a story driven song in ‘Live While You Can.’‘All The Ways U Can Die’ inspires listeners to look beyond death. With a banging riff and rush of energy, ‘All The Ways…’ swoops in to liven up the latter portion of the record.
The albums 15 tracks and about 39 minutes are just enough to keep the album moving. The album doesn’t necessarily drag pace, but there are a few songs that feel unnecessary. ‘Something New’ comes off a little whiney, especially since ‘A Little Hope’ and ‘Can’t Save You Now’ visited those topics earlier in the record. ‘She Set Fire’ treads a bit out of line, but it’s not bothersome to the overall experience. The album has a good consistency and is organized well enough to keep listeners attention. I doubt listeners would get bored listening to Never Gonna Die
start to finish. The riffs and vocals are varying enough to make each song individual regardless of opinion.
Never Gonna Die
is a welcome breath of fresh air into Pennywise’s discography. There’s a bright tone, numerous memorable songs (which I’ll list below), and a general sense of engagement. It may not be as heavy or chaotic as previous installments, but it’s fair to say that wasn’t the goal for this one. While old school fans might feel a tad alienated by this one, Pennywise did reinvent themselves to fit into the confines of today’s punk scene. It’s a good climate for a record like this to exist. Rise Against tried their best with Wolves
, but the album’s lack of assertiveness fell flat with most listeners. Never Gonna Die
holds its own with their themes and makes their voices heard. It’s a lot more fulfilling in that sense than most other albums trying to match that sense of political awareness. I’d recommend this to people who are new to punk music, want something more energetic and substantial, or want to freshen up before Warped Tour hits the road next month. Never Gonna Die
, alongside Little Dark Age
and Eat the Elephant
, is an easy addition to my best of 2018 list. I’m just happy to see Pennywise clowning around again.
Never Gonna Die
Keep Moving On
Live While You Can
Can’t Be Ignored
All The Ways U Can Die
(Just listen to the album. Everything is good.)