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.