Never has there been a more apt title for a record than the new one from Hermosa Beach’s Pennywise, who have now been around for the better part of three decades. Never Gonna Die (Epitaph) is the bands attempt to right some of the wrongs they made on 2008’s Reason To Believe (MySpace), which for many die-hard fans was a real low point.
The lead and title track is as Pennywise as a Pennywise can be with a brief build before launching into their classic speed-punk sound resplendent with a great catchy riff and some Woahhh’s and Ohhhh’s in the chorus, all propelled along by the superb pummelling drums of Byron McMackin. The band write this kind of song so well it immediately makes you feel like you’re in safe hands.
One of the more welcome and indeed more surprising tracks is ‘Can’t Be Ignored’ which has, and might I say not to its detriment, a cleaner, radio-friendly feel to it that in no way comes off as being saccharine or watered down. The vocals of Jim Lindberg are more melodic here but still retain that grit and experience so inherent in his voice. This gives more emotional weight than might be present with another singer.
There are, however, those usual problems that crop up on almost of all of the latter Pennywise albums, that being the tracks that sit in that in-between space. It is cuts like ‘She Said’ and ‘Goodbye Bad Times’ which just bring the record down overall, either offering nothing new or even in the former’s case sound like a retread of older material. Is it the band being so stuck in their ways that they are just becoming creatively stagnant or is it that I have become so used to their sound that everything is starting to blur into one?
I guess that is kind of the way to approach the record when you listen to it – a diehard fan will love it unabashedly, whilst a newcomer may balk at its straightforward simplicity. There is nothing amazing and nothing truly awful it is just another solid album from Pennywise.