Friday, August 26, 2005

The Fuse
Epitaph Records, 2005

Published at MancPunkScene

My past write-ups of Pennywise releases and performances have been anything but arse-kissing.  They have for a long time been, and are likely to remain for the foreseeable future, my favourite band.  Despite this, I often feel the need to defend my liking of them, and counter-act it in admitting their shortcomings in my writing.  Fans are an artists harshest critics.  Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that I have grown to love them in the years when they’ve released their least amazing material.

In many respects, this album is an improvement on From The Ashes. The band have gone back to addressing specific issues in some of their songs, such as disinformation (Fox TV), war (18 Soldiers) and our electronic dependence (Disconnect). There are some interesting ideas that grab your head and nod it in the music, which whilst not directly stolen, sound like they were influenced by the likes of Strung Out, Strike Anywhere, The Offspring (“woah-oh”). One line of thought they seem to have taken note of, at least to some extent– “If 7 Seconds can still play fast, why can’t Pennywise?” As usual, Pennywise know how to write an album opener and closer. A couple of songs, including said opener, have really cool high-pitched guitar segments and metallic stop-short riffs (ironically in this aspect, it is they who sound like 1208).

But there are still too many emo songs in punks clothing, whining about not fitting in instead of revelling in it, and whinging about the state of the world instead of getting angry about it. Even when Jim Lindberg is spouting defiant statements, it comes across like a whimsical, watered down version of an older song, partly because it sounds as if once again Lindberg has passed his voice through some sort of machinery, and partly because the words are so bloody unoriginal. Some of the apparent favourite terms and words include millions, lies (final song name), the wonderful filler “yeah yeah” and society. His obsession with the word society – ARRGH! There’s a song called Knocked Down and a song called Stand Up. A song named Dying, and a song named Take A Look Around (luckily no Fred Durst inspiration for Pennywise’s writing – yet).

You also get the feeling that they aren’t putting enough effort into the instrument music either, as a lot of it is bland and throwaway and doesn’t inspire at all. Certain tracks just get lost in the hearing.  Perhaps they are too insistent on having a new album every two years. I’m reminded of something my dad once said about skate punk: this music is just the drummer trying to keep up with the singer trying to keep up with the guitarists.

Maybe if you are new to the band, you will find more decent levels of enjoyment in this. It’s only because Pennywise in the past showed that they were capable of producing some of the most satisfying, straight up rock music of our time, indicative of punk’s radicalism, that they allow themselves to be criticised this way. We can guess they tried to retain that image by naming this latest album as they did. The actual result is like a Wile E. Coyote project: you light the fuse, it reaches the bomb, and nothing happens.


James Lamont.

Friday, February 25, 2005

7 Seconds
Take It Back, Take It On, Take It Over!

Side One Dummy Records, 2005

A typically revolutionary album title from a band with more optimism than I have that punk rock is going to change the world in any massive way.  I say this because they’ve been around longer than I’ve been alive (and no, I’m not just a really hilarious toddler).  17 tracks in 28 minutes.  I've listened to it 4 times whilst you've read this introduction.

For a band who once sang “I’m gonna stay young until I die” they write a lot of songs about being over the hill.  The 3 tracks that stand out most if you just have this album on in the background are the longest, “slowest” songs on the CD, they are all a bit cheesy (musically) and all have an ageing theme.  The best song all-around on the album, is the first, the only one that’s under a minute long  - “All Came Undone” is a song about looking back and wondering if you really changed things that much.  Which are the kind of elderly wises those of us in the 17 – 23 age-range can appreciate, because we wonder if we’ll look back and think the same.  There’s something disheartening about hearing Kevin Seconds pre-pubescent voice sing about “Your Parents Hardcore”.  On “Big Hardcore Mystery” he quite fairly says, “give the kids a try”, but it’s as if to imply that the kids aren’t giving it a try quite fine on their own.  Seconds also sings “some even tried to steal the name”, as if the bands musically tame and outdated definition of “hardcore music” is more true than the much heavier metal and emo hardcore bands that are around now.  Perhaps it would be cynical of me to wonder if the albums theme has anything to do with its title.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate what these guys did, but they’ve barely changed their sound in 20 years.  Which is okay I suppose, it’s a good sound.

Nevertheless, 7 Seconds have stuck around longer and remained more entertaining than many of their (younger) contemporaries, so perhaps we can allow them to settle into being middle aged.  Even though their gang vocals are starting to sound more like church harmonies, the guitars and drums are still infectiously well crafted, and Kevin Seconds unique voice still works brilliantly on your lugholes.  If you want something fast and fun and not at all groundbreaking, get this.


James Lamont.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

South Asia Benefit gig: The Little Explorer, The Dragon Rapide, Tigers!, Day For Airstrikes, When
Words Escape, Raucous, Grayson's Hour, Durai, Cornish Tinmines
Sunday, 9th January 2005
The Phoenix, Manchester

It doesn’t take George Monbiot to figure out that the recent devastation in Southern Asia could have been minimised significantly in a world where wealth and resources are not so ridiculously (and purposefully) misplaced. It’s no pain in the arse for a Premier football club with more income than a remote island to throw a few thousand the way of a natural disaster, and the pathetic crumbs of “aid” donated by Western governments simply seem embarrassing. That is, until you read that Blairs government gave £1bn (20 times the aid money) to the Indonesian military, then a month before Christmas supported an arms fair in Jakarta. Then it becomes outrageous. The Indonesian military by the way, killed 20,000 civilians in Aceh and was still killing them right up until the day when it was hit by a tidal wave.

Luckily for our sense of shame, the British public have been donating a lot, apparently. As always, and as we seem keen to point out in the music scene, there is certainly a case of bandwagon jumping from people who never have and never will make a charitable contribution again. I suppose it’s better that they do this than bandwagon jump a national uzi fetish, but obviously, it’s pleasant to search out those genuine humanitarians. This is the point where I say, “yes, this is still a concert review.” As if it isn’t task enough to try and organise a 10-band line up, to do it so speedily is admirable. We don’t seem to have any trouble coming together in large numbers for benefit gigs, the sad thing is we don’t show unity of this scale all the time. The bands are a mixture that you wouldn’t normally expect to see together, which goes to show it can work.

The afternoon danced into the night from the rising punk of Durai to the non-stop noisities of Raucous.  From the easy mid 90’s emo of Grayson’s Hour to the twangly delicacies of Day For Airstrikes, and the kazoo’d madness of Tigers! to the sleepy sparks in The Little Explorer (who almost didn’t turn up at all).  Every band brought something positive to the table, and even though some claimed not to have fingers (I’m looking at you, When Words Escape!), the community vibe in the second floor venue was excellent throughout. Get your bum over to for more gigs, and for information on the generous people who damaged our ears for free this past Sunday, would be a good place to start.

Between the door charge, cake/CD stall and additional donations, this day raised just under a £1000 for Oxfam ( An amazing feat. Let’s hope it’s not the last of its kind for a while after the BBC take their cameras off Sri Lanka, leaving the general populace back on the happy shores of apathy, far from any natural or man-made disasters.