In for a pound - Pennywise keeps loudfastangry punk alive with a finger raised to the establishment.
by Larry Getlen
Listening and talking to Pennywise, a punk band with a 15-year pedigree, provides the perfect opportunity to evaluate the current meaning of the term punk rock. While the genre is loosely referenced these days, the "punk" we hear bears no relation to real punk rock, the strangling grind of the Sex Pistols, The Dead Boys, The Damned and The Clash, or the next-generation angry young men such as the Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat or Murphy's Law.
Pennywise's latest full-length studio album, From the Ashes, is its seventh, all of them on independent punk label Epitaph Records. The music on the disc is also a generation removed from that of the band's hardcore predecessors, with many of the drum fills and guitar licks owing more to metal than punk. But whatever the category, the music is hard, fast, pounding and angry, not chaotic but structured by a band that clearly knows its way around a song. Guitarist Fletcher Dragge, speaking by phone from his home in Hermosa Beach, Calif., says that at this point in their career, the men of Pennywise are confident in their style.
"We've always been about trying to keep our albums similar," he explains. "If you wind up sounding like another band over the years, you're gonna lose your fans, and they're not gonna support you anymore. We've had success being Pennywise, so we try to remain Pennywise."
That's not to say that the band shuns evolution, but rather that the changes are subtle. "We add some other elements and try to make each album a little bit different," Dragge continues. "But at the same time, we're not gonna be a reggae band or pop-punk or ska. We're conscious of trying to bring different sounds and textures into the songs, but to the untrained ear, if you don't listen to Pennywise that often, you probably think the albums sound similar. A true Pennywise fan, though, can hear the difference - not a big evolution but just enough to keep it fresh."
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