August 18, 2012


Pennywise band artist
Reviewer Rating: 4/5 
When lead singer Jim Lindberg left Pennywise in 2009 (see the film "The Other F Word" and read his book Punk Rock Dad), many fans were wondering what was going to happen with the band.  They had released Reason To Believe in the year prior and they had been a staple in the punk rock scene for about 20 years at that point.  That’s quite a long career for a punk band.  In fact, Pennywise is arguably one of the most respected punk rock bands still playing.  So, what do we do, now that the lead singer left?  Should a band go on, and risk having the band’s reputation tarnished by letting some other dude sing in place of the guy everyone knows?  Should they call it quits and go their separate ways?

Personally, I am very happy they chose to take a chance.  On their new record, All or Nothing, which was released on Epitaph Records,  May 1, 2012, they’ve welcomed veteran punker Zoli Téglás, from the Ignite, to vocalize – and quite well I might add.  The sheer range he brings to the table one-ups his predecessor, although the timbres of their voices are similar.  Musically, the album reminds me of two of their earlier albums – About Time, which was released in 1995, and Full Circle, which is the album released in 1997 – both with their catchy melodies, choruses, and extremely fast, and technically proficient drumming.  The one song that stuck out in my mind as being slight departure from their style is the song We Have It All, especially the chorus, which seems as if it’s a faster, punk version of an 80s power rock song, or maybe if you would take the vocals of Dragonforce and shift it down a perfect fifth, and maybe slow down the drums.

Pennywise band artist
Pennywise in the studio
I was beyond excited when they released their first single, All or Nothing, not because it was just another Pennywise album, but because of the lyrical content and subject matter.  Perhaps nobody realizes this, probably not even the band itself, but Pennywise doesn’t really sound like a left-leaning band, lyrically, as most punk bands seem to do.  They’re also not truly right-wingers.  No, they’re lyrics espouse something different.  Liberty.  Freedom.  One might suggest that Pennywise’s lyrics leans towards the Libertarian side (see My Own Country - lyrics, American Dream - lyrics, Land of the Free?­ – lyrics).  

Take the look and listen to the last lyrics from the title track All or Nothing: 

I believe that we can move on
Conquer our goals and right what is wrong. 
I believe that we can stay true,
True to ourselves, and find something new.
Find something new.

Could it be that they might be talking about a new way of thinking about politics (or old, depending on how you look at it)?  Let’s look at another example from Let Us Hear Your Voice:

There's a rebellion on ice,
And you'll pay the price
As your freedom fades away.
Dishonesty is high, 
So won't you even try
To stand up for your rights and say. 

We don't want your laws. 
So take 'em back right now.
They're bull***t anyhow.
It's time we had our say. 
The injustice cannot stay.
They stabbed us in the back. 
And you can feel it bleeding if your heart's beating now.

Still not convinced?  How about one more example?  Here are the lyrics for Revolution:

As we walk through these troubled times,
We struggle through this so called life 
Waiting for something to change.
And now all hope is gone.
The pain has lingered far to long.
Black is a sky filled with rage

It's been too long.
We're holding on.
We'll right this wrong, 
And fight on.
We will remember today. 
Let me hear you say:

We we want a revolution.
One more time in for solutions.
We we want a revolution.
Now's the time for Retribution.

This is truly amazing to me – and I really thought that I was the only one to pick up on the message when this came out.  It turns out I was wrong.  It also turns out that Fletcher Dragge, Pennywise’s often-outspoken guitar player, is more of a Ron Paul supporter.  While I do concede that Fletcher Dragge has mentioned that the band leans more democratic, he does go on to mention the Federal Reserve in the middle of this interview – Ron Paul’s signature issue (see 1 2 3). 

Left to Right: Fletcher (Guitar), Zoli (vocals), Byron (drums) , Randy ( bass)
So whether you support Ron Paul, or not, you must realize that this is highly significant.  Music is a social art.  Music and art tells us what is happening in the world; it signifies trends and triggers reactions.  Revolutions.  When people think of the Harlem Renaissance they think of Duke Ellington.  When people think of Big Band Swing, they should also think about Be-Bop, as a reaction to Big Band.  When someone is thinking about the “Turbulent 60s” they think of Bob Dylan, not The Archies.  When people think of Reaganomics (hopefully) they think of Black Flag or Minor Threat.  One day, perhaps, when people think of Ron Paul, or the Liberty movement he had mobilized, they’ll look back and think of Pennywise’s All or Nothing: a musical success for the band, and a paradigm shift for the future of the country.

2 comments:

  1. Fantastically written review, and I like how you got to talk about Ron Paul a bit. I'll definitely PURCHASE this album (even though it's way easier to download for free from some pirate site).

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  2. Thank you sir. Stay tuned for the next article about the Gaslight Anthem's new album.

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