Original release date: March 25th, 2008
I suggested to a friend that I could probably review Pennywise’s ninth full-length without actually listening to it – after all, the two-decade-old Californian punk rockers have basically rewritten the same album every few years since 1997’s Full Circle. Moreso even than fellow punk veterans Bad Religion, their songs all sound much the same: expect pummelling drums, power chords, pick scrapes, generic riffs, and gruff vocals set off by melody and you won’t be disappointed.
As if to prove me wrong, first track (Intro) As Long As We Can starts with a completely un-Pennywise-like metal influence – but after the minute-long beginning, the song proper is high-octane punk that’s as familiar as it is energetic. However, the darker One Reason follows up on that metal promise for possibly the heaviest song in Pennywise’s canon, Confusion trades in the breakneck tempos for corrosive mid-paced rock, and… well, that’s really about it as far as variation goes. Faith And Hope, with its lightning-speed drumming, could have come from any of their albums in the past decade, while the group ‘whoa whoa’s on Something To Live For’s chorus are also typical.
A newcomer would find these cuts exhilarating, and it’s hard to deny the catchiness of The Western World, upbeat We’ll Never Know or frenzied It’s Not Enough To Believe, but there’s nothing new here – even Jim Lindberg’s rhyming dictionary lyrics are predictable, and the simplistic approach to issues such as religion come as no surprise: this is, after all, a band whose idea of a manifesto is Fuck Authority.
Like the Ramones (who they covered during the Australian tour promoting this album), Pennywise have become a parody of themselves… and I guess hearing the same songs rehashed over and over is preferable to a P-Dub version of Acid Eaters. In the end, it doesn’t matter: there’s always going to be a new generation of teenage skaters ready to buy their latest album.