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Pennywise | From The Ashes | review | punk | Lollipop
From The Ashes (Epitaph)
by Ewan Wadharmi
In the category of 8th wave baseball cap punk revival, Pennywise are elder statesmen. After all, when they formed, champion skateboarder Ryan Sheckler was still just a grind to his daddy's rail. (Insert lipslide to frontside joke.) And while they lack the hooks of Face To Face and the humor of NOFX, you can't fault them for energy. Drummer Byron McMackin in particular is increasingly astounding, making a fierce racket, and making it look effortless. But ask Ten Foot Pole if stellar drumming makes a band great. The musicianship is above reproach. Frantic, but as a tight-knit group. Like criminally insane conjoined triplets. The songs, however, are very similar, and bear a striking resemblance to previous albums.
The velocity is respectable, but with few exceptions ("God Save the USA" and "Something to Change"), you'll find the same rhythms and riffs on a Thin Lizzy or Bon Jovi record. Less punk than punky. This stepped-up hard rock has Jim Linberg's deliberate singing draped across the measures. The biteless vocals never seep into the music itself. There's no threat, and that cripples the songs. At best, Lindberg growls with the dissonance of Suicidal Tendencies' Mike Muir.
Expanding on the political whistle-blowing of Land of the Free?, Pennywise try to answer what to do in the aftermath. Their mission to heal a nation's wounds is noble, and perhaps this is a drop that can help fill the bucket. But the better-than-average lyrics point to matters of significance while rarely touching the dirty things. "This is only a test of the emergency broadcast system/ this is the result of our reckless ambition/ the castles we have built have all become our prisons." If clichés are your thing, let's make more songs, books, concerts, and Olsen twins movies called "Holiday in the Sun." Stop already.
Pennywise is a decent band that could do with some more flavor. If Lindberg paid attention to what they're doing, perhaps they'd let him join them.
(2798 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026)