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Unknown Road

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Album Review

The echoing piano melody that opens Pennywise's 1993 effort, Unknown Road, suggests a more thoughtful side to a band known more for raw energy and aggression than introspection. The almost melancholy intro barely winds down before Pennywise launches full bore into the title track with simultaneous fury and accuracy. Pennywise hits a new level of controlled chaos on Unknown Road with a finely tuned, tightly wound musical attack. Jim Lindberg's caffeine-fueled, angst-ridden diatribes on lost time and personal responsibility mesh seamlessly with Fletcher Dragge's fiercely visceral, yet melodic guitar crunch. Scorching personal anthems like "It's Up to Me" and "You Can Demand" showcase the concept of the do it yourself ideal that has been alive and kicking since the inception of punk. Pennywise began recording Unknown Road in the absence of Jim Lindberg, with bassist Jason Thirsk attempting to fill the gap on vocals. Thirsk's bass teacher, Randy Bradbury, took over bass duties for the majority of the recording. (Bradbury also took over Thirsk's spot in Pennywise after the founding member's death in 1996.) Lindberg rejoined Pennywise midway through the recording of Unknown Road, enabling the completion of the album and the continuation of the band. Bradbury and Thirsk, along with drummer Byron McMackin, frame Dragge's speed-freak guitar riot and Lindberg's drill sergeant delivery with adept skill and inventive musical craftsmanship. They add high-test fuel to the fire of Dragge's screaming riffs and unflinchingly accommodate dizzying time changes. The band hits their collective stride on "Time to Burn" and "Dying to Know," combining their musical prowess and intensity with forceful personal messages. The ferociously fan-loyal Pennywise continues to reinforce their dedication to inspiring their listeners to embrace life from an enthusiastic perspective. Their message of optimism, however, is tempered with a stern dose of reality. While these are somewhat common themes in more insightful punk and hardcore, they are rarely as well crafted and delivered. Their coiled aural assault provides a dynamic tension that aptly punctuates the ideas within the songs. Unknown Road is an inspired effort by the reunited and recharged Pennywise, the first consistently solid release of their career.


Formed: 1988 in Hermosa Beach, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Pennywise were one of the key bands of the punk revival of the '90s. Using California hardcore as a foundation, the group incorporated funk-metal and skatepunk into its sound, developing into something that functioned as edgy, post-punk frat rock -- it was speedy and occasionally stupidly catchy, with heavy, propulsive rhythms and positive, optimistic lyrics that stood in pointed contrast to their grunge-addled peers. Through constant touring and recording, as well as appearances at surfing and snowboarding...
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Unknown Road, Pennywise
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