Not being a huge fan of punk myself, I was somewhat surprised to discover that that listening to Pennywise's latest album, From the Ashes (Epitaph), was far from a chore. The long-standing California punk quartet doesn't beat around the bush much on this album, dropping right into their message-laden lyrics as soon as you've pushed the play button.
According to the band's singer, Jim Lindberg, the album was inspired by 9/11 and was the band's way of finding hope after the tragedy. From the get-go, it's easy to see that the band dealt with the tragedy much as many other punk bands did, by lashing out at the government (typified by tracks such as "God Save the USA" and "Judgment Day").
But it's not all negative; it's simply a way for this group of punk rockers to deal with a national tragedy. In tracks like "Now I Know," the band talks about fighting for their freedom, and in "God Save the USA," they remark that "the obituaries' front page news." Though predictable, their lyrics do a reasonably good job at describing how most young people felt after the attack. "Salvation" tells fans that "it's time to make a difference" and "Rise Up," a later track, talks about standing firm on individual opinions. The message stays constant throughout most of the album, but doesn't get tiresome. Pennywise offers a perspective that doesn't talk down to their fans -- rather, they encourage them to speak up and understand what is going on around them.
Perhaps the best part of From the Ashes is the DVD included with the album. Yeah, there's your usual stereotypical frat-punk stuff: home video shots of the band drinking and dancing in a living room and shooting each other with pellet guns. But interestingly enough, the DVD also features interviews with the four Pennywise guys about the album and contains a live performance of "My Own Country" which provides insight into motivations behind the album.
In some ways, From the Ashes is a model punk album: hyper and preachy. That said, Pennywise does a fine job of lining each track with a thoughtful perspective on current events while turning in an album that, on the whole, is accessible and approachable.