Those of you that read my first article (which can be found here) know that I have been anxiously anticipating the new Pennywise album. Last week, I was surprised to have the pre-ordered vinyl show up at my office five days before the actual release date. That’s always a good feeling, isn’t it? Pennywise and the nice people at Epitaph Records were nice enough to include a CD of the album with the vinyl, so I promptly popped it in my computer to see if the rest of the album lived up to the high expectations set by the title track.
For the last four days, All or Nothing has been in constant rotation, getting multiple listens per day, and flooding my ears with the sweet sounds of Zoli Teglas’s near perfect voice and Full Circle-esque songwriting. In fact, this album would be more appropriately named Full Circle than Full Circle itself. After a few disappointing releases in Reason to Believe, The Fuse, and From the Ashes, Pennywise has truly come full circle with All or Nothing, 15 years after hitting their prime. Everything about this album, down to the album art and packaging, screams 1995, and this is totally a good thing.
Most of you have already heard the first single, and title track, ‘All or Nothing.’ As of right now, this song remains my favorite on the entire album. “We’ll never know, until we try. The time is now. It’s all or nothing. We owe our life. It’s do or die. We must believe. It’s all or nothing.” If that doesn’t motivate you to get your ass to the gym, I don’t know what will. The urgency on this song is incredible and it is a great way to start the album off. On ‘Revolution,’ the band comes close to recreating the ‘Bro Hymn’ atmosphere (whether that is a good or bad thing is up for debate, but you must admit, you thought that song was badass when you first heard it) and it is sure to be a crowd favorite with all of it’s “whoa’s.”
Another song that is worth noting is ‘Let Us Hear Your Voice,’ which comes off as oddly optimistic among Pennywise’s usual doom-and-gloom political lyrics. Knowing Zoli’s past with Ignite, I would be surprised if he didn’t have a large hand in writing this song. There is a strong Rise Against sound to it, which is probably why I can see it being a successful second single. Zoli’s vocals on the last chorus are outstanding, as he takes it an octave higher than the rest of the song and shows off his fantastic, and somewhat operatic, voice. ‘X Generation’ is another song that could be picked as a second single. It features a catchy chorus bemoaning the lies told to Generation X and warning the future generations to not be caught in the same lies.
There are two things that make this album a great Pennywise album. I know many crazed Pennywise fans will write All or Nothing off because it doesn’t feature Jim Lindberg, which is such a mistake (like writing off Back in Black because it didn’t feature Bon Scott). I know I am partial to Zoli’s voice because I am an Ignite super-fan, but the vocals on this album outshine the vocals on every single Pennywise album before this one. There is just no comparing Zoli’s voice to Jim’s. It’s that much better. There used to be common joke about Pennywise, that if you had heard one album you had heard them all. I tend to agree with the joke, as Pennywise has not evolved much as a band in 20 years. That being said, there are clear distinctions between their good albums (Straight Ahead, Land of the Free?), their great albums (S/T, Full Circle, Unknown Road, About Time) and their dismal albums (the aforementioned Reason to Believe, The Fuse, and From the Ashes). The big difference between the three categories is the quality of the songs and the time taken to perfect them. It seems funny to discuss refining 3-chord punk songs, but that is exactly what needs to be done. The last three albums have been mailed in, and it shows in the boring songs they have given their fans.
I read in an interview with guitarist Fletcher Dragge that the band has not argued this much during the recording of an album since Full Circle. Is it a coincidence that Full Circle was their last GREAT album? I think not. Care has been taken on all of these songs in order to give the fans something from the heart, and something that was well thought-out. The backing vocals are interesting and well executed, while the gang vocals are well placed and used sparingly. As I stated earlier, the band has not sounded this urgent in a while and it creates a strong atmosphere as you listen to the message they are trying to convey. With Zoli’s superb vocals and the band’s strong song writing, All or Nothing firmly places itself in the great Pennywise albums category, and after 4 days of listening (a small sample size, I know) I am hard pressed to find a reason for it being denied a shot at being my favorite Pennywise album.
Grade: All or Nothing is a must have for any Pennywise, Ignite, or punk fan.