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Music Review: Pennywise – Reason To Believe

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Californian punk rockers Pennywise have released their ninth full length album titled Reason To Believe under the still fairly new MySpace Records.  This is the first time the band has not released material under the punk rock Epitaph records.  Reason To Believe was actually available for free for a short time on MySpace if they added Textango (an online site that you can buy music from using your cellphone) as a friend.

Pennywise is a band name I have known for years and it is no wonder. They have been around for twenty years.  My first taste of them was 1995’s About Time and I was lucky enough to see them live soon after at one of the Vans Warped Tours in the mid-nineties.  They have a solid punk rock sound that is not too over the edge but not considered poppy.  Millions of fans all over the world have considered these guys major figures in the punk rock world. 

The band consists mostly of high school chums and has had a pretty concrete line-up with some members leaving and then rejoining in the early years of the band.  In 1996 one of the original band members chose to leave the band to try and win his battle over alcoholism but tragically took his own life.  While it was a huge distress to the band and fans, Pennywise continued going on and even recorded a tribute song for their departed friend properly titled “Bro Hymn”.

Opening the CD is the powerful “(Intro) As Long As We Can” a track that seems to be declaring Pennywise still has it after all these years.  The song is just bad ass with hard lyrics and wound up guitars. 

Following the opener was the heavier “One Reason” with thrash-like sounds alongside singing looking for a perfectly good reason for some sort of uncalled event.   “Faith & Hope” had a catchy feel to it but I just felt it could have used added a few more group vocals in between verses. 

“Something To Live For” was a tough cut.  I really liked all elements of this song especially the back-up vocals.  “All We Need” was another track that stood out to me.  Whereas the singing was not overpowering, the drums and guitars made up for that.  This song could get the pit moving as could  “We’ll Never Know” with the old school Pennywise sound.   

“It’s Not Enough To Believe” is by far the best track on the CD.  The song is full of great guitar work, a tweaked singing style, hammering drumming, and group vocals.  “Affiction” at times had a singing style that reminded me of Bad Religion’s “American Jesus” especially when the chorus kicked in.  Then there was “Brag, Exaggerate, & Lie” a speedy track that seems to fly just past you.

Apparently Pennywise had recorded over sixty songs for Reason To Believe and the outcome was fourteen tracks of non-stop beginning to end punk rock.  I am serious when I say that 2008 has so far been a good year for punk rock and Pennywise has released a CD that helps my statement.  With all of these said “Old School” punk rock bands releasing new material some bands either have it or should just throw in the towel already.  Pennywise has no reason to give up just yet.

Just remember when you are listening to Reason To Believe that the band has been around the scene for two decades.  I can see some of the diehard been-there-since-they-started fans think this is not top notch Pennywise, but I myself enjoyed it.  I have to admit I was kind of scared when I saw that MySpace Records was giving away their CD for free thinking that the band may have only done it for the money but clearly I was wrong.  This is a great CD created by a great band that I hope continues to put out material to sooth my inner punk rock addiction. 

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About Brian McConville