Along with Bad Religion and NOFX, Pennywise have endured long enough to make sure that teenage punk fans of the 80s and 90s have never had to resort to ever listening to any new bands ever since. These guys have all been cranking out albums on the regular for upwards of three decades. And for the most part, they never seem very interesting in surprising anyone. I, for one, love that. These bands all do what they do really well, so if they can stay consistent, I don’t need any huge leaps in evolution or experimental genre hopping.
Technically a new album, Yesterdays is almost entirely made up of unrecorded Pennywise songs from the band’s sessions from A Word From the Wise in 1989 and Unknown Road in 1993. But to any Pennywise fan, this isn’t just a collection of songs that didn’t make the cut the first time around. With the majority written by the band’s late bass player, Jason Thirsk, Yesterdays is great tribute / goodbye to Thirsk, who’s shadow has hovered over the band for almost 20 years now.
Like I said in the opening paragraph, Pennywise isn’t the kind of band who has changed all that much over the years. Which means they’re in a better position than most bands to record songs written decades ago. If they sound dated, it would only be because you find the entire Pennywise aesthetic dated. Luckily, I dig what they do, so another album of solid, tight, Californian punk rock is OK by me.
Old or new, these songs are Pennywise songs. After taking a break for 2012’s All or Nothing, it’s great to have Jim Lindbeg back behind the mic, and the guitar of Fletcher Dragge is as fast, as distorted and as palm muted as ever. And really, not to sell the contribution of drummer Byron McMackin or bass player Randy Bradbury short, but that that Linbderg / Dragge combo is all any Pennywise fan could ask for.
Closing their live shows with the originally Thirsk penned, later reworked as a tribute to the bass player, Bro Hymn Tribute is a nightly reminder to Pennywise fans that the band has never forgotten him. And now we have Yesterdays as another memorial. I’d say that Yesterdays is for Pennywise fans only, but at this stage in their career, I’d say that about any of their albums. Either you’re going to be into what they do, or you’re not. Which album you choose to base that decision on doesn’t really matter.