Pennywise - Nineteen Eighty Eight (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Pennywise

Nineteen Eighty Eight (2016)

Hardline entertainment


Nineteen Eighty Eight makes the first two Pennywise EPs available together on vinyl for the first time. Wildcard and A Word From the Wise, both originally from 1989 ironically, have long been available together on CD. (Does anyone remember when Bad Religion’s 80-85 became the How Could Hell Be Any Worse? reissue? This is along the same lines.) Anyway, is there a more definitive CD era punk band than Pennywise? What Nineteen Eighty Eight succeeds at is giving fans a look at the band in its formative stages. They also tack on a couple extra songs as a bonus, or maybe in an attempt to stretch this out to proper LP length.

The songs themselves are a mixed bag. Some point the way to where Pennywise would end up, and are similar to the band’s Epitaph stuff. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they were very good at doing the 90’s skate-punk sound. Every Pennywise album had a least a couple of great songs, and Nineteen Eighty Eight is no exception. Opener “The Final Chapter” is definitely one of the good ones. “No Way Out” is probably the best song on the record. “Gone” is really solid and probably the fastest thing here. “Wildcard” is decent, but seems to be significantly influenced by (hair?) metal. Their cover of the Black Flag classic “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie” is solid and true to the original.

Pennywise was a pretty new band when they recorded this stuff. It’s not really surprising that some of the songs feel like failed experiments. “Covers” is a song about sex, and it falls flat. “Depression” is the most cringeworthy song here. It’s almost like nu metal (ahead of its time!) with its rapped verses and guitars that sound like a DJ scratching records. “Maybes” feels like Red Hot Chili Peppers type white funk and it’s awful. Ben E. King’s oldie “Stand By Me” is a live favorite, but the studio version is a bit lackluster.

The sound quality is not too bad, but it’s not nearly as polished as their later stuff. Jim Lindberg’s voice has also gotten lower and better over the years, and so has their songwriting. For better or worse, this also doesn’t have quite the layers of backing vocals that would come to define the band’s sound. Nineteen Eighty Eight is not bad, but it’s only going to be an essential purchase for big Pennywise fans and completists who also happen to be vinyl snobs. Everyone else can probably live with their CD copy or take a pass.