They Still Have It

Since the influential Pennywise established a name for themselves with their 1991 self-titled release, it was evident that their So-Cal skate-punk style would fit right in to the direction that punk music was heading. As they tried to separate themselves from the majority of other bands’ four-chord verses, and broken-record song structure, they have once again proved that their attitude and musicianship has grown, just like they have.

After Pennywise broke their tradition of releasing an album every two years, they left Epitaph Records and signed to Myspace in 2007. Out of this extra year came Reason to Believe, which captures the themes of angst and discern of religion and politics in today’s world. Pennywise seems to have given up the “bring down the man” theme of their past three albums, with an intent to have it be more like an “old school” record.

Reason to Believe opens strong with “As Long As We Can,” a sonic-fast circle pit anthem, which brings to mind their past album starters “Now I Know” (From the Ashes) and “Time Marches On” (Land of the Free?) which were both of equal caliber of impact. “As Long As We Can” rolls right into the album’s strong point, “One Reason,” which disrupts the listeners head-banging, causes an eyebrow raise, and makes you question: “Is this still Pennywise?” Fletcher Dragge has broadened his guitar playing as “One Reason” kicks in with a hardcore, almost metal guitar riff, ground that has never been covered by Pennywise. There is an evident metal influence on Dragge’s guitar playing and soloing throughout a majority of this album, as he relentlessly belts out an amalgam of riffs, making it clear that Pennywise is reaching for new boundaries with their sound.

Jim Lindberg’s definitive punk vocals are always a strong point for Pennywise, considering his ability to hit undertones and get across the meaning of a song like he’s telling a story. Randy Bradbury (bassist), the predominant lyricist of the album, has targeted religion and the current state of affairs suggesting a change, as represented by their lead-off single “The Western Wall.”

As Pennywise still remains one of the most credible punk bands, Reason to Believe, with its outstanding guitar work, chugging bass, and of course, that Lindberg brand vocal-style, proves that after almost two decades, the boys still have it.