01.Never Gonna Die
03.Keep Moving On
04.Live While You Can
05.We Set Fire
07.Can’t Be Ignored
08.Side B 09.Goodbye Bad Times
10.A Little Hope
11.Won’t Give Up The Fight
12.Can’t Save You Now
13.All The Ways U Can Die
Release date: April 20
Format: CD, LP, digital
Reviewed by: Trope Misanthrope
Follow at: https://twitter.com/punk_reviews
When it comes to giants of skate-punk, there's Bad Religion. And then there's Pennywise. One can throw NOFX, Lagwagon, No Use, or any other number of bands in for argument's sake, but at the top of the skate-punk mountain it comes down to BR and PW for me.
Pennywise has always had an incestuous relationship of sorts with BR, releasing all but one of their albums since 1991 on Epitaph Records, owned by Brett Gurewitz (BR guitarist/songwriter).Gurewitz also played a key role in helping to develop Pennywise's early sound, helping to produce the band's self titled album (1991) and their sophomore effort Unknown Road (1993) in his studio, Westbeach Recorders. Unknown Road is Pennywise's magnum opus and was the first non-BR Epitaph album to ever sell over 100,000 copies. When punk rock exploded in 1994, Epitaph saw several bands exceed the 100K mark, including the Offspring, Rancid, and NOFX.
Brett Gurewitz has also co-written Pennywise songs with singer Jim Lindberg. "Who's On Your Side?" featured on 2011's Land of the Free is an example of this partnership. The BR ties are strong when it comes to Pennywise, and the influences run deep.
With the band's new album Never Gonna Die, never have the BR streaks been more apparent. And trust me when I say, that's a great thing.
Singer Jim Lindberg infamously quit Pennywise back in 2009, as chronicled in the phenomenal documentary on punk rock and fatherhood 'The Other F Word'. Lindberg wanted to tour less and be home with his young family. So he started a band called the Black Pacific. Meanwhile, Pennywise marched ahead, adding Ignite vocalist Zoli Teglas.
The band released All or Nothing in 2012 with Zoli on vocals and it was a tour de force. The record was phenomenal but as good as it was, it wasn't Pennywise. Pennywise is defined not only by their positive outlook and inspirational lyrics, but also by Lindberg's vocals.
Teglas eventually quit the band, due to a back injury, which coincided with Lindberg's interest in rejoining. The band announced Jim's return, and not long after, released an album called Yesterdays, which featured old songs mostly written in the late '80's by former bassist Jason Thirsk. Thirsk died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the summer of '96. Thirsk was the brainchild behind Pennywise, writing many of the fan-favorite songs from the early 90's, including Bro Hymn, Homesick, and more.
It was great having Lindberg back in Pennywise, and although it was fun to hear old Thirsk songs on Yesterdays, I was itching to hear new songs. It took a few more years, but the band just dropped Never Gonna Die on April 20 via Epitaph.
So, how is the band's first full length with Lindberg since 2008's Reason To Believe? It's unbelievably good. For those who had perhaps begun to write Pennywise off since Lindberg left the band, and the subsequent changes, you jumped the gun.
Never Gonna Die is an absolute statement by the band. Pennywise once again stakes their claim at the pinnacle of skate-punk, daring any and all comers to even come close to matching their well-honed sound. The new album is melodic, it shreds, and the lyrics take on a more personal tonality, similar to the band's early records in the '90's. LIndberg's songwriting chops are apparent, which for those of us who've been listening to the band for the better part of the last three decades, it's manna from punk rock heaven.
Never Gonna Die opens with the title track, which blazes out of the gates with that patented Pennywise sound. Big, crunchy guitars by Fletcher Dragge, and Lindberg's rich vocals, decrying the impact of organized religion on humanity and world events. Randy Bradbury's bass work on this record might be the most impressive I've heard from him. He mixes it up quite a bit, deviating often from the standard rhythm guitar patterns, which adds infectious layers to the sound. Drummer Byron McMackin, a mainstay, does what he always does, and keeps the whole Pennywise thing together with his signature style.
The album never stops. Each and every song grabs you and doesn't let go. You'll be singing along in no time flat, because Pennywise sticks to their formula on Never Gonna Die, for the most part. And that's fine with me. Pennywise doesn't need to change, and this album truly makes me believe this is a band that's Never Gonna Die.
Although it's hard to choose favorites, the top tracks on this record include "Never Gonna Die", "Keep Moving On", "She Said", "Can't Be Ignored" and "Goodbye Bad Times". When you play "Can't Be Ignored", you'll notice the Bad Religion influences big time, with the ooh's and aah's on the bridge, sang in multi-part harmonies.
My favorite track, however, is "Goodbye Bad Times". It's a mid-temp song dealing with the familiar Pennywise themes of recognizing one's shortcomings, resolving to overcome them and moving on. The band does tread some new ground on this song, from a production standpoint, with Lindberg's vocals on the third verse.
Since this album dropped three days ago, I haven't stopped listening to it. I'd guess I've spun it a good 20 times. My rule, before I can come to any opinion on an album, is three full listens. I've more than passed that threshold and can say with absolute conviction that this is the best Pennywise album — front to back — in almost 20 years. Hats off to the veterans for droppin' knowledge of this magnitude on the scene.
10 out of 10 stars.