STORY WRITTEN BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
For Digital First Media
Punk rock acts either hit hard then burnout fast, like the Germs and the Sex Pistols, or they stick around long enough to become well-respected elder-statesmen of the genre, like Bad Religion and Social Distortion. Then there is a third, less populated and hard to define sector where Pennywise end up fitting in.
Though the Hermosa Beach, California band has made a name for themselves over the past 26 years as a politically minded, melodic hardcore act who have sold millions of albums, they’ve also been dealt upheaval and tragedy. Somehow, mainly as purveyors of “positive mental attitude” (PMA), they managed to make it through, not in one piece, but more like scattered remnants that manage to come back together at the end of the day for the greater good.
The first major blow was the death of original bassist Jason Thirsk, who wrote a bulk of the lyrics and music to the band’s songs. Having battled with depression for many years, he shot and killed himself at the age of 28 in 1996.
“Jason was the emotional core of Pennywise and his songwriting was very much about, and that’s really what initially drew me to the band and where we started out,” said singer Jim Lindberg in a statement. “The punk scene had become really cynical and confused in the late eighties and it seemed like the only bands that were doing anything inspiring were the one’s singing about positivity and unity and heading in a new direction.”
On the band’s latest album, Yesterdays, Pennywise celebrates the life and legacy of Thirsk with what Lindberg calls, a “new album of old songs.” It contains many previously unrecorded songs – in the studio at any rate – penned by Thirsk. Many of the tracks came from a cassette they recorded at their rehearsal space back in 1988. Interestingly enough, the original recordings of them can be heard at the end of the record. The remaining material consists of outtakes written during Pennywise’s Full Circle and Straight Ahead eras during the late-90s.
“We always wanted to go back and record these songs because later in our career we started to get more political and angry – that may have turned some people off but that’s what we were feeling at the time,” Lindberg said. “In the back of our minds we knew we had these cool, old songs that were more life-affirming, it just took us 25 years to get back to it.”
Lindberg brought major disruption to Pennywise when he split in 2009 due to the old “creative differences” excuse and due to the fact the rest of the members wanted to be out on the road more than he did. Since returning in 2012, where he was welcomed back by two sold out shows at the Los Angeles Palladium, the specter of a new album was always hanging in the air, but the way Yesterdays was approached seemed to make the most sense.
“Instead of having the pressure to write a new album it made more sense for us to play these songs and remember why we started Pennywise in the first place and I think that helped us out a lot,” Lindberg said.
Suddenly, all seems right again – or at least back to slightly askew – in the world of Pennywise.
“These songs are Pennywise in our purest form and it’s really as much of a gift to us as it is to our fans, many of whom have been waiting for real recordings of these tracks for years,” Lindberg said. “It marks a new chapter for the band while still staying true to the way we started twenty six years ago.”
IF YOU GO
What: Pennywise in concert. A Wilhelm Scream, Teenage Bottlerocket and No Risk open.
When: 7 p.m. March 28 – Show is all ages
Where: The Trocadero, 1003 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA 19107, Philadelphia.
Info: Call (215) 922-6888 or visit http://thetroc.com