Album review

Pennywise : From The Ashes

Pennywise : From The AshesPennywise proved this year at Leeds Festival that they are a band to be reckoned with. The heaving tent of sweaty punks that were present will no doubt agree with this statement, and after their blistering performance I was looking forward to the release of From The Ashes. They have never achieved the gigantic mainstream success of NOFX, but nonetheless have prospered from a strong following in their fourteen year career.

2001's Land Of The Free saw Pennywise switch from a socio-political stance to a more globally recognised political direction . . . the same direction which unfortunately might well be the downfall of this disc.
    Everything you would expect is present and correct - fast beats, palm muting etc. - but somewhere along the line the classic ingredients have been tampered with, resulting in a collection of songs that fail to stand apart from each other. Opener Now I Know is reminiscent of a vintage Offspring tune, and initially sounds very promising, but solely because the other songs have yet to be probed by the laser in the CD player.
    Lyrically, From The Ashes hardly excels; most songs just consist of shots at institutions and corporate rats, such as the CIA and NRA (National Rifle Association). But to be honest, after Michael Moore's award-scooping documentary, Bowling For Columbine, who doesn't hate Charlton Heston and the NRA? While their instruments are played with 14 years of knowledge and talent, the songs struggle in terms of variation, each one sounding like the previous track.
    There are a couple of songs that get away from the pack: Holiday In The Sun seems to hit the spot quite well, with a rising chorus that rolls along adequately with the changing time signatures. The hardcore-style group chanting in Rise Up also strays from the rest, but still never quite manages to break free of the dull, overly consistent mould. It feels like there is a musical boundary which Pennywise fear to cross.
    In the counterculture review of Linkin Park's Meteora, the songs are said to sound like the previous album's tracks but recycled and in a new box. Listen to Punch Drunk to hear Fuck Authority again - the similarity is uncanny.

Admittedly this does grow on you very slightly after a couple of listens, but overall it's poor and uninspiring, I expected a lot more from a band that have rode through the rise and fall of American punk. The Trade Descriptions Act authorities would be knocking on the door of Jim Lindberg and co if they heard this album: Pennywise have not risen From The Ashes; it seems they perished in the flames.

:: Graham Drummond

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