Pennywise - Straight Ahead (Cover Artwork)


Straight Ahead (1999)


Cham Clowder

Pennywise have been around a long time. When you think of 1990's punk rock, Pennywise undoubtedly comes to mind along with Ten Foot Pole, Gob, Lagwagon and NOFX. 1999 was a time when Millencolin still played ska, and emo was something I didn't understand but thought that was maybe what Samiam played.

Arguments with friends revolved around whether Good Riddance's best album was Ballads or Operation Phoenix, what anarchy actually was, whether or not the Offspring were sell-outs, the possibility of Bad Religion ever returning to their Epitaph roots, and the potential of Blink ever returning to their Dude Ranch days. Well, time has answered these questions, but anyway...

This album, Straight Ahead, came after the self-titled, Unknown Road, About Time, and momentous Full Circle albums.

In fact, this was the first CD I listened to by Pennywise; hell, it was one of my first punk CDs. I remember spending the summer of 1999 listening to this, How Far Shallow Takes You by Gob, Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo by MxPx and Survival of the Fattest. I was 16 and thought this album was sensational. Perfect for weekends at the lake, driving around with windows down or blasting in the backyard at a party.

Well, six years later and my interest in Pennywise long gone, I come across an article on this site saying they have a new album in the pipe. I check the reviews and see that this, in my opinion their best album, is missing a much-deserved review. So, I searched through my collection, putting aside the newest Alkaline Trio and He is Legend records, and throw it in the player.

I thought it might sound old or jaded, but I was terribly wrong. This album still packs a massive punch. With the opening notes of "Greed" I remembered why I loved this band so much -- their passion, the intensity, the sing-along quality. Such an enjoyable and integral band.

The opening lyrics sucked me back in: "Everything you want you always think you need, you are so selfish, motivated by greed." This was why I got into punk in the first place. As I listened to it, song after song of awesome riffs and great catchy songs ensued. The album pulled back great memories of underage drinking, sunny days, trying and failing miserably to pick up girls, late nights, getting grounded, and stealing cigarettes to sneak by the lake. It reminded me of what it's like not to have to worry as much, to just let go and have a good time. Pennywise is party music.

Pretty much all the songs on this album are good; it's good enough to listen to in its entirety without skipping.

My personal favourites are:

  • "My Own Country:" Great, catchy rythm and good lyrics, you'll be singing this song before it's through.
  • "Can't Believe It" is another classic, a driving, harder song, but still so catchy that you'll be singing along.
  • "Still Can Be Great" triggers memories of a girl I dated; it is another classic Pennywise tune, with great harmonies and lyrics that will stay in your head for weeks.
  • "Straight Ahead," "My Own Way" and "Watch Me as I Fall" probably stand out even more from the bunch. They are probably 3 of the best punk songs of the 1990's. "Watch Me as I Fall" has the great lyrics "I'm fueled by gasoline, alcohol, and me as I fall."
  • "Alien" is the ballad of the album, slower and more relaxed, but still a great tune. It ends with the repeated singing of "we're all aliens;" again, really catchy and fun song.
  • The rest of the album also rocks; another special mention is the last song "Badge of Pride," another true Pennywise classic.
All in all, this is a hard CD to point out just a few good songs, as you can see by my listing pretty much all of them as favourites.

Anyway, I missed this album, and it is now safely back in CD rotation. If anyone else out there is like me, they remember this album but have forgotten how good it is. Give it a whirl and tell me it's not the best Pennywise, and one of the best albums of the 1990's.