I've been listening to Pennywise stuff for a while now, and "Reason to Believe" is their latest album, released in 2008. I went out to buy it and listened to it practically as soon as I got home.
Am I happy with it?
Let me explain.
Pennywise have been around for a long time now, and "Reason to Believe" is their ninth album overall, so there have been many albums before it. As a result of this, I seem to have developed certain expectations of Pennywise albums, and "Reason to Believe" just didn't match up to these. Perhaps the band members are (god forbid) actually getting old.
There was nothing wrong with the songs themselves, and a lot of them are good. But there's nothing in particular that stands out. It's all a bit same-ish, with no real highlights in the album. The songs have a lot of elements in common, for example the guitar parts are often great, with brilliant riffs. The vocals are relatively consistent throughout, and there's a lot of backing vocals used in the album. The drums can't be picked at very much, as they do their job very well indeed.
Even with the songs being similar, I still have some personal favourites of the album. For example, "One Reason" is a song that comes early in the album and has a catchy chorus. "Faith and Hope" has some good lyrics in the chorus. "It's Not Enough to Believe" is possibly my favourite song of the whole album - it has a great catchy chorus and is heavy and fast enough to break through from the background that the other songs blur into. This means that I'm paying enough attention to appreciate "You Get The Life You Choose" straight afterwards, but I'm not sure whether this wouldn't also blend into the background otherwise.
Essentially, the songs on "Reason to Believe" just don't change enough. Sadly, this means that whenever I put the album on to play, it ends up more as background music, because I just can't focus on it for very long because it's all too boring. In fact, dare I say it, some of the songs actually end up being annoying after a few plays.
I don't know why Pennywise seem to have slowed down at this point, whether they're getting older, or they just didn't put as much effort into this album - I don't know. I just hope that they'll get themselves back to their good old selves before their next album comes along. I mean, I would still buy it, but I can't promise that I would like it - I only listened to "Reason to Believe" as much as I did because I honestly kept forgetting it wasn't as good as their previous stuff.
'Reason to Believe' is the ninth studio album from the American punk rock band that is Pennywise. In late 2006 the bands guitarist Fletcher Dragge predicted that the album would be released in the summer of 2007, but summer came and went with no new Pennywise album having emerged. In September 2007 the band then announced that they had around 60 new songs to choose from and that they would therefore be spending the next few months choosing the best of the lot for inclusion on the album. Fifteen tracks are contained on the 'Reason to Believe' album, and if these are the best of the 60 that they had available then I really hate to think what the worst were like. This is not a bad album from Pennywise by any means, but really it has very few highlights to speak of and the band drift their way through this album without any real intent or direction. In the past their albums have at times been extremely hard hitting, Pennywise have recorded brilliant punk rock music by anyone's standards. Sadly 'Reason to Believe' is not up there amongst their best and it would seem that having released nine studio albums now the band are running a little low on ideas.
There are moments of great promise contained within this album, and the guitar riffs are often excellent. The problem here is that a lot of the time the tracks just all sound the same and 'Reason to Believe' therefore makes for extremely unenthralling listening. Even the enjoyable tracks on this album soon become tiresome as they lack life and by the time the tracks are over you just find yourself really rather bored. Even though a lot of these tracks clock in at around the three minute mark, somehow this is too long and perhaps it would have favoured the band to have put forward two minute tracks rather than three.
'Something to Live For' is the first real moment of promise that Pennywise put forward from this album. It's instantly catchy and as the band progress their way through the track they sound like an extremely tight unit as they smash out the guitar riffs and the vocals come firing. Although the track starts well however I soon myself getting bored with it and by the time it's finished I find myself to have drifted off entirely. Listening to music should not be such a chore as this, if a band have enough about them to get you interested in a track in the first place then there is no reason why you should be able to lose that interest so easily. I think it's laziness on behalf of the band that is to blame for this album being so average, they have evidenced with their sound in the past that they are talented musicians with plenty to offer and yet they just don't show that here. They put forward a strong guitar riff, but repeat it so many times within the same track that by the final note you're completely sick of it and never wish to hear it ever again.
'It's Not Enough to Believe' is a fairly decent track from this album, the vocals contain quite a bite and there are some excellent gang vocals as the track unfolds. Great use is made of backing vocals here in order to make the track greatly powerful, all the while there is a driving guitar riff that makes the track greatly entertaining to listen to. It's not up there amongst the best that the band have ever recorded, but it's certainly a decent track from the band and is definitely a lot better than much of this release in which the band seemingly have very little to offer whatsoever. It is just the right length, an interesting and uplifting punk rock track from the band which is packed full of promise. 'You Get the Life You Choose' follows on from this track and is once more a fast and frantic offering in which the music is tremendous fun to listen to and always entertaining. Again, it's not one of the best tracks that the band have ever recorded but is definitely amongst the best that they have to offer with their 'Reason to Believe' album.
'Next in Line' ends this album amicably and is in fact the best track that 'Reason to Believe' has to offer. It is an energetic and exciting punk rock number and the band fire through this one with a real fury. This is Pennywise at their best, why however they couldn't have been consistently excellent throughout the whole of this release I really have no idea. They have shown in the past that they can write brilliant albums, and even if the majority of tracks here were only half as good as 'Next in Line' then this would at least be a start. Although 'Next in Line' is a fantastic punk rock offering complete with some truly inspirational double bass pedal work; it is too little, too late for Pennywise and through being entirely average throughout much of this album they have already let themselves down far too much for this one track to be able to redeem the album as a whole from the land of mediocrity.
One major plus point about this album is that in America a deal has been arranged through MySpace Records in order to provide the 'Reason to Believe' album as a free digital download , a release date has been scheduled for this digital freebie of March 25th 2008. Sadly however no such deal has been arranged in the UK and you'd therefore have to part with your hard earned cash if you were wishing to own this album in physical or digital form. Personally I wouldn't advise this, not unless you really are a massive fan of Pennywise and wouldn't feel quite right if you didn't own every single album in their back catalogue. 'Reason to Believe' is an average and frankly uninspiring album from Pennywise, occasionally the band sound interesting but most of the time they merely sound bored.
Label: Epitaph/Myspace Records
Release Date: 24th March 2008
Originally posted by me on my website Alt-UK.com
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 (Intro) As Long As We Can
2 One Reason
3 Faith And Hope
4 Something To Live For
5 All We Need
6 The Western World
7 We'll Never Know
9 Nothing To Lose
10 It's Not Enough To Believe
11 You Get The Life You Choose
13 Brag, Exaggerate & Lie
14 Die For You
15 Next In Line (Bonus)