CD Review: Pennywise “All or Nothing”

Named after the razor-toothed killer clown from Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel “It,” Pennywise, the band formed in 1988, has endured throughout the years despite numerous line-up changes and the shifting tastes of “what’s hot” in the American musical landscape. Their loyal fan following remains staunch, and there will no doubt be new fans won with one listen to “All or Nothing.”

Formed in the South Bay of Los Angeles, an area with a rich punk rock history, Pennywise would go on to amass an international following through relentless touring and a melodic, high-energy sound merging surf punk, blistering hardcore and the classic punk of their youth. The group has solidified their place in punk history with songs like the raging “F*** Authority,” “Alien” and the band’s now legendary ode to brotherhood and departed friends “Bro Hymn.”

The band’s sound on this, their 10th full-length studio CD, maintains its heft and confidence as in past albums, and there is a new flavor added by new lead singer Zoli Teglas. Something that works in the favor of “All or Nothing” is the ability to clearly understand the lyrics. Teglas does a fantastic job articulating what the band has to say about rebellion, socio-political angst and how to survive in this crazy world.

Like ‘90s American punk band The Offspring, the sonically charged yet melodic music of Pennywise would translate well to radio. Songs like “United” have a message as well that would appeal to the masses: “There are times we can’t go on/ but there’s a sunrise anyway/ and even though the feeling’s gone/ you’ve got to live another day.” Other songs, like “X Generation” read almost like a political rally speech. “Well they’ve been saying all along we’re the X Generation/ now it seems we’re the voice of a nation/ haunted by the ghosts of our fathers past/we’ve been suffering far too long/ our day it’s upon us.”

In keeping with the genre that Pennywise fits into so well, the 12 songs on “All or Nothing” clock in at an average of 2:30. Each one packs its own unique punch. Sometimes the band moves into a more metal direction than punk, as on the opening of “Stand Strong,” but it is not long before guitarist Fletcher Dragge is back to shredding. Drummer Byron McMackin provides the thunder, and Randy Bradbury on bass pulls it all together, sounding wicked on “Song of Sorrow.”

The band heads off on a major European tour this summer, but no word on whether Pennywise will play the Pacific Northwest.

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