Pennywise

Like Noam Chomsky in Dickies, Pennywise has always spiked its jet-engine punk with social commentary. But on 2001's Land of the Free?, the Cali quartet looked at the White House and saw red, upping the political invective with an album full of fist-in-the-air fight songs taking the president to task.

The breakneck Bush beatdown continues on From the Ashes. Much like long-running fellow West Coast punks NOFX, Pennywise has been galvanized by the current administration to the extent that it has dropped its finest, most fuming album since 1997's Full Circle. Most of the band's trademarks are firmly intact: sub-grindcore drums; chugging, circle-pit guitar; and Jim Lindberg's distinctive vocals, all velvet and venom. Acoustic guitars spring up momentarily on "This Is Only a Test," but mostly this is one incensed anthem after another. From the vein-bursting sing-along "Waiting" to the warp-speed "Now I Know," Pennywise reduces most of its peers to Ashes.

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Jason Bracelin