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Never Gonna Die
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  • The stalwart California punk band's 12th studio long-player, Never Gonna Die is Pennywise's first collection of new songs with vocalist Jim Lindberg in over a decade -- 2014's Yesterdays saw the returning Lindberg, along with guitarist Fletcher Dragge, drummer Byron McMackin, and bassist Randy Bradbury, paying tribute to bassist/songwriter Jason Thirsk, who died in 1996, with a set of tunes written during his time with the group. Employing the same kinetic blend of melody, message, and might that made 1995's About Time such an essential cog in the punk revival machine -- the Hermosa Beach natives helped to spearhead the second wave of SoCal skatepunk in the 1990s alongside bands like the Offspring, Rancid, and blink-182 -- Never Gonna Die bristles with intent, even if it sounds a little trapped in amber. The execution is flawless, especially on amped-up pit-inducers like "Live While You Can," "American Lies," and the fiery title cut, but that sonic urgency is occasionally mired by a preoccupation with the past. That a band on the cusp of its third decade should feel a little reflective is hardly a surprise, but nostalgia doesn't always pair as well with punk as it does other genres. Still, like their heroes Bad Religion, Pennywise have remained essential through sheer tenacity -- there's nothing on the just under 40-minute set that feels phoned in -- and Never Gonna Die, like all of their albums, feels like it should have added an exclamation point to the end of the title. ~ James Christopher Monger
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