Punk rock and nostalgia often go hand in hand. Those who are old enough to remember its first incarnation in the late 70’s won’t ever stop talking about what a wave it made in their lives and in the world. People who have grown up with punk will often remember the song or the album that first turned them on to it and encouraged them to dig deeper into the genre to a treasure trove of discovery.
If you grew up in the 90’s, particularly the first half, as I did, and had a fire lit up under your caboose for this type of music, it should go without saying that you crossed paths with Pennywise at some point in your musical journey.
Pennywise formed in 1988 and from their self titled debut onwards (released in ’91, just as Nirvana’s Nevermind was breaking), they have remained one of the most musically consistent, influential and exciting bands in the scene. Even 2012’s All Or Nothing, which featured Ignite’s Zoli Teglas on vocal duties, after Jim Lindberg jumped ship to focus on other things, sounds like a Pennywise album, albiet with a different singer.
But that’s what fans have come to expect from Pennywise. And that’s part of what we love about them. We don’t want any Sgt. Pepper explosions of creative rediscovery. We don’t want any branching out. And we don’t want any damn acoustic albums. We want Pennywise. Fast, hard, catchy, white hot punk rock fury.
Yesterdays then, is like a dream come true. A throwback album. A lost album of ancient tunes, many of which have never, or barely, seen the light of day. A album that sounds like classic old school Pennywise, but with the polish and tightness of present day Pennywise.
And what’s remarkable about that is that despite sounding like an early 90’s playlist, the songs on Yesterdays stand up perfectly well with the songs that have come off of their last few records.
In fact in some instances, on “Restless Time” and “Violence Neverending” in particular, this album contains some of the best songs in Pennywise’s entire catalogue.
Considering how fast the band put these songs down (they say on their website the whole album was tracked in a matter of days with only a couple of takes for each song), Yesterdays sounds incredibly tight. Some of these came in their original form off of muddy cassette tape recordings from backyard barbecues or basement shows the band played before anyone outside of their immediate circle of friends knew who they were. A handful were written by original bassist and founding member Jason Thirsk, who died tragically in ’96, just as the band was taking off. So it seems entirely appropriate that Lindberg’s return to the fold should ring in with an album in which the band pays tribute to their legacy and their roots. By going back to the beginning, in some cases before the beginning, Pennywise has ironically done something which allows them to sound fresher and more alive than if they were to crank out another thirteen to fifteen songs of new material. And something much less cheesy than a retrospective record or a bloated box set, possibly filled with as much filler as gem material.
The record starts off with a police radio broadcast before a waltzing bass line and some mosh ready riffage takes the listener right back to the glory days of independent punk rock. And immediately you know, this is a record that celebrates youth in all its nihilistic rebellion.
The record ends with “I Can Remember”, one of the band’s catchiest songs and nearly as touching a tribute to as “Bro Hymn”. It’s a song filled with the regret and sting of losing someone close to you, but also a song that looks toward the future with optimistic eyes.
So Yesterdays is a record that sounds as if it was written by a bunch of snotty punk ass kids, but performed by seasoned veterans. And it ends with those kids in transition. The loss of innocence, but the start of something new. Much like Pennywise themselves right about now. All in all a fitting tribute to their scene, their legacy and to Thirsk himself.