When Jim Lindberg left Pennywise in 2009, it made sense to write the band off. How could they continue on without his engaging presence, a key factor in making them the legends they are today?
In a testament to their punk rock chops, they did. All or Nothing, their first overall record since 2008 and first with new singer Zoltán “Zoli” Téglás (from the OC punk band Ignite), is a fine addition to their long-running legacy and a firm declaration that yes, there is life after Lindberg.
The album-opening title track affirms the band’s resurgence: slick, precise, circle-pit-ready riffs and a defiant refrain of We’ll never know/until we try/the time is now/ it’s all or nothing set the tone for the rest of the record powerfully.
The signature Pennywise vocal hook on Revolution makes it a surefire hit at future gigs – and its chorus is pretty solid, too.
Vocally, Téglás fills in well for the departed Lindberg, with touches of The Offspring’s Dexter Holland poking through his shouts every now and then. Musically, Pennywise hasn’t sounded this fresh in years – Fletcher Dragge’s guitar riffs are steady, catchy, and befitting of an icon such as himself, while Byron McMackin could teach a class on How To Be A Punk Rock Drummer, considering how hard and effective his drum work is on this record.
A side note – it’s amazing that now, ten studio albums deep, Pennywise haven’t already used song titles like All or Nothing, Revolution, Seeing Red, Tomorrow, United, and Stand Strong, but apparently they haven’t. Kudos to them for employing a bit of song title diversity over the years.
Shouted group vocals validate Stand Strong’s claims of independence and free will, while Let Us Hear Your Voice chugs along with one of the album’s catchiest choruses (and one of Téglás’ most affecting Holland impressions). Songs of Sorrow is also a highlight, its urgent tones and end-of-the-world themes calling to mind Bad Religion (which is never a bad thing). The same can be said for X Generation, a condemnation of societal malaise and manipulation that could have been co-written by Greg Graffin himself.
If you were afraid to give Lindberg-less Pennywise a chance, fear no more. All or Nothing is just as solid as anything they’ve ever released. It’s just…different, obviously. Musically, it’s the same Pennywise you’ve come to love and expect, just with a slightly tweaked vocal approach.
But everything else – the defiance, the anger, the middle-finger-to-the-enemy (see: Seeing Red) is still there, just as amped-up as before.
Now start up that circle pit.
ALBUM RATING: 4.5 Stars (out of five)