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Pennywise: From The AshesFrom The Ashes (2003)
Reviewer Rating: 3.5
Contributed by: FortyMinutesWestFortyMinutesWest
(others by this writer | submit your own)
Everyone has an opinion on Pennywise. You should could probably ask some homeless guy on the street what he thought of this band and he would have an answer, he might also stab you, so that’s probably not a very good idea. I know most of you didn’t actually come to read the review; you came to say “Pennywise! This sounds like Pennywise! All their songs sound the same! HAHA! BRO!” But some of us still like this band. Let me take you back, way back to 1996. I was still in junior high back then; I don’t even know what I was listening to at the time, Soundgarden or one of those bands. I would still listen to the radio to find “good music”, even though I hated 99% of what I heard. “What’s with all this love song bullshit? These bands have nothing to say.” One day I was browsing through the local music store when I saw an album that I had never seen there before. “Pennywise? Hey, that’s the clown from ‘IT’. Wow! It has a bomb on it! I need to get this now!” I walked up to the cashier, threw down the money I had saved from cutting grass and went home to hear my newly purchased album, “About Time”. From the first chords of “Peaceful Day” I was hooked, I had never heard a band play so fast and with so much passion. Their lyrics actually touched on things that interested me, doubts about religion, politics, personal struggles, etc. I would later purchase “Full Circle”, “Unknown Road”, “Pennywise”, and “Wild Card/A Word From The Wise” all of which I listened to virtually non-stop. But some time in between the release of “Full Circle” and “Straight Ahead” I grew up. I still liked “Straight Ahead”, but it didn’t move me in the way that their rest of their material did. “Land Of Free” was met with a lukewarm reaction from me at best, at worst I realized that I had outgrown this band that they had little to offer me anymore. I felt bad, but at the same time “Fuck Authority” is an awful song and I couldn’t believe that this was the same band that had evoked such feelings from me in the past.
That sure was a lot of rambling. “From The Ashes” still sounds like Pennywise, but there are little intricacies that set this one apart from their past couple of albums. The acoustic guitar on “This Is Only a Test of The Emergency Broadcast System”, the piano on “Yesterday” (I know they’ve used piano before, but it was only as an intro or an outro), there are also some atypical riffs and more vocal harmonies than were present in the past, these are all new things. Of course you won’t be able to see any of this if you aren’t willing to look past the stigma of it being Pennywise. The lyrical content deals with personal problems as well as politics, but the political lyrics seem less contrived than they did on “Land of the Free”. Thankfully, there’s no song that is as brick-to-the-head blunt as “Fuck Authority”. The closest thing on here in terms of having that vibe is “Rise Up”, consequently, it is my least favorite song on the album. “Holiday In The Sun” is another fairly mediocre track that sounds like it was rightfully left on the cutting room floor during the Land of the Free” sessions. Luckily, the rest of album solid and some of the songs even hold up to the band’s older material. Unlike the band’s older work however, the best song on here (at least in my opinion) is the slowest. The melodic sing along “Yesterdays” has been stuck in my head since the first time I heard it. This is no small feat, as no Pennywise song has been able to accomplish this since “Full Circle”. The band hasn’t forgotten how to play fast skate punk though, as showcased by songs like “Now I Know”. That is, after all what they are, a skate punk band that plays fast. They’ve never claimed to be anything more. Nonetheless, there are some differences here. The acoustic guitar on “This Is Only A Test of The Emergency Broadcast System” really caught me off guard. Jim’s vocal carry this song, as he showcases my more melody than we’re used to hearing from him.
So yes, it’s Pennywise, yet it isn’t rehashed. There are clear differences here, you can listen and realize this, or you can ignore it and complain after never listening it. The choice is really yours. If this album accomplished anything, it made me pull out “About Time” and “Full Circle” again. Who knows, maybe some kid in some boring, middle of nowhere town will come across this in a record store and it will open the door to a whole world of music he never even knew existed.
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