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PENNYWISE

"From the Ashes" (Epitaph)
"Live @ The Key Club" (Epitaph)
"Straight Ahead" (Epitaph)


"From the Ashes" (Epitaph; 2003)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

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Pennywise's "From the Ashes" is highly political, socially conscious, and surprisingly intelligent punk rock that takes the genre very seriously. The music on "From the Ashes" is fast and simple, rough and raw and yet strangely melodic. With more edge than Blink-182 (but less than early Rancid and way less than, say, the Sex Pistols) Pennywise deliver a solid disc of strong tunes that fans of the genre will find instantly likeable.

Lyrically, "From the Ashes" seems to spring from the pain, horror and frustration of the post 9/11 world. Most of the songs are more subtle than Track 2, "God Save the USA," which simultaneously jabs at America's foreign policy, President George W. Bush, corporate greed and public apathy.

Personally, I think "From the Ashes" is at its best when not angrily forcing the band's political views down the listener's throat. I just like the political commentary in my rock'n'roll to be a little more subtle. Thankfully, that's mostly the case here. The pain and frustration of the songs is still clear but it all works better for me when the band isn't so obviously on a soap box. 

All of the songs are tightly written and expertly performed with, for the most part, just the right amount of attitude. The band is incredibly tight and the stellar production by Darian Rundall and Pennywise only enhances the band's formidable talents.

"From the Ashes" is another nicely carved notch in the belt of a band that continues to be one of punk's best.

Pennywise: Jim - vocals; Fletcher - guitars; Randy - bass; Byron - drums.

For more information, check out http://www.pennywisdom.com


"Live @ The Key Club" (Epitaph; 2000)

Reviewed by Paco

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This is a recording that Pennywise made of a set they played earlier this year at the Key Club in Hollywood. It is all previously released songs (except the cover of Minor Threat), but it shows that Pennywise is even better live than they are in the studio. All of the songs are faster than the studio version and this further proves the #1 rule of punk: faster is better. This is CD for the true fan, just a little something to tide them over until the next release (coming in 2001). It's also a great introduction for the uninitiated. The set itself is awesome, featuring songs that are as old as the band (about 14 years) to material from their latest release ("Straight Ahead"). The recording quality is great, giving plenty of crowd noise without drowning out the band.

As I've said many times before, there is no better band than Pennywise. Even if you have all their albums (which you do, right?), it is great to hear them play live.

For more on Pennywise, visit www.pennywisdom.com


"Straight Ahead" (Epitaph; 1999)

Reviewed by Paco

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The newest release from Southern California's Pennywise was recently released and I've been listening to almost nothing else since. "Straight Ahead" displays a little more diversity than some of the previous Pennywise releases, but it still has all the hallmarks of Pennywise: great, positive lyrics and fuckin' AWESOME punk music.

I was teased by the song "Alien" that was played on the radio a few times. This is one of the more mellow songs on the disc, but also one of the best. The title  track is one that I keep listening to over and over and over again. This is a song that you'll never hear on the radio. ("Straight Ahead" is also one of three songs  from the disc that is available as a free MP3 download from the Pennywise web site, www.pennywisdom.com.)

With 17 songs on the disc, the band has the opportunity to experiment a little bit. Songs like "Victim of Reality" and "Alien" are a bit slower, but they are still awesome. Don't confuse this with making the songs "more accessible." "Straight Ahead" is as fast, hard and heavy as any Pennywise release and they are still on the independent Epitaph label. Don't expect to see the band doing interviews or being featured on MTV to try to sell more records. A few enlightened radio stations might play one of these songs, but probably nothing else.

If punk is your style, you cannot go wrong with "Straight Ahead."


Rating Guide:

retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes) A classic. This record will kick your ass.

retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes) Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

retinysaw.gif (295 bytes)retinysaw.gif (295 bytes) So-so. You've heard better.

retinysaw.gif (295 bytes) Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

restinks.jpg (954 bytes) Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright 2003 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 13 Mar 2016 11:33:51 -0500.