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The Fuse On The Fuse, Pennywise retreat a bit from the pointed rhetoric of 2003's From the Ashes. The southern California band has never been passive about its views, and The Fuse isn't either. It just picks wider targets to fire at, perhaps in response to the mania that gripped the scene in the run-up to the 2004 presidential elections. Fat Mike and Pennywise and Bad Religion definitely had valid points -- Don't stand pat! Get involved! Screw complacency! -- but their crazed zeal came on so strong that it deflated almost immediately after the election. It couldn't sustain the rush. On The Fuse, Pennywise turn in classicist punk bootstrap anthems (the fabulous opener "Knocked Down"; "Stand Up") and blistering pleas for tolerance ("Competition Song") and tenacity ("Best I Can"). Jim Lindberg's vocals are serviceably gruff, and Fletcher Dragge's guitar work is much more muscular than it's been in recent years. He might hit some power chords that sound familiar, but nothing's ever done weakly. The same goes for Pennywise. The Fuse doesn't really tread any new ground, and might have included a few more tracks like the midtempo rager "Lies" for a little variety. But the album's nevertheless the work of veterans, and is consistently melodic in a way some Cali punk-pop has lost sight of. Pennywise do name some names on The Fuse. "Fox TV" is called out; the bandmembers probably meant Fox News, but their gripes are clarified in lines like "Fair and balanced perjury" and "Fabricated journalism/Junk news and jingoism." They also rail against an overly technological society ("Disconnect") and a misguided war effort ("Premeditated Murder"; "18 Soldiers"). There's a bluntness to these complaints -- they're taken from the Big Issue pile, after all. But like punk's push to rock the vote in 2004, Pennywise are just trying to remain aware and keep their enemies close. After all, it's not like any of these problems have been solved. ~ Johnny Loftus, Rovi
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