Pennywise - All or Nothing (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


All or Nothing (2012)


The most common complaint leveled against Pennywise is that all their songs sound the same, so when longtime vocalist Jim Lindberg left the band in 2009, only to be replaced by Ignite's Zoli Teglas, it seemed like a perfect time to shake things up, and perhaps reinvent themselves, as much as a band like Pennywise can anyway. To make a long story short, they didn't. All Or Nothing, the group's first record back on Epitaph after a nontraditional deal with MySpace Records, showcases the same band that Pennywise has always been, only a bit more flat and uninspired.

There is a certain energy level present on All or Nothing that the group hasn't delivered in quite some time. The guitars roar and the drums gallop just like they did on Full Circle and Straight Ahead. If anything their melodic skate punk attack is even more ferocious now than it was in the '90s. Some of these songs, such as "Stay Strong" and "Locked In," have an almost metallic Strung Out type feel in the riff department. For the most part though, this is the same Pennywise album we've heard several times before; nine times before, to be exact. The few tracks that do deviate from the formula slightly aren't very original either. "Tomorrow" sounds more than a little like NOFX's "We Ain't Shit" and the intro to "United" carries a distinct AFI vibe.

Not being familiar with Ignite, All Or Nothing is my introduction the vocals of Mr. Zoli Teglas. He has a bit more range than his predecessor (although that's not exactly a huge achievement). What it basically comes down to is that sometimes he sounds like the Offspring's Dexter Holland (the title track), sometimes he sounds like Rise Against's Tim McIllrath ("Revolution"), but mostly he sounds like Jim Lindberg.

As usual, the band has zero sense of dynamics, subtlety or nuance. While those aren't the things most people look for in a Pennywise album, hearing essentially the same song repeated over and over can grow tiring. At 14 songs in 45 minutes, the record overstays its welcome by quite a bit. Also, much like their peers in Anti-Flag, the lyrics come across as though they were written by a 15-year-old kid who has just gotten into politics, and is angry without really knowing why. All of these faults piled on top of one another drag the album down, way down.

Bands like NOFX and Bad Religion are still managing to put out great albums 30 years into their respective careers. Pennywise is out of steam at just over 20. All or Nothing's opening title track offers up a chorus of "We'll never know until we try / The time is now, it's all or nothing." They tried, and now we know. It's nothing. Perhaps they shouldn't have bothered.