Performers with major problems before fame, rarely find the cure when adulation arrives. In fact, the problems usually become worse. Many Rock groups have at least one dysfunctional member. For the Punk-revival Pennywise Jason Thirsk was the one. Bass playing Thirsk had been a member of the So. Cal. hardcore scene. In '88, he joined fellow Hermosa Beach High School alum, vocalist Jim Lindberg, guitarist Fletcher Dragge and drummer Bryon McMackin for Pennywise. A year later their indie released debut EP "Word To The Wise" caught the attention of Epitaph Records. An eponymous full-length debut followed. The group hit the road but Lindberg had second thoughts. Feeling the need for the security of a day-job, he bailed. The group continued with Thirsk taking over lead vocals and recruiting his former bass teacher, Randy Bradbury.
During the recording of their second album Lindberg, now married, decided to return. So Bradbury was, as it turned out, temporarily sidelined. Thirsk who had been handling vocals was, along with the rest of the group, glad to have Lindberg back.
Lindberg found Pennywise was dedicated and focused; a far cry from what he'd left. "Unknown Roads" came out in '93. Prior to the recording of their third album the major labels made a play for the group but they decided, probably wisely, to stay with Epitaph. "About Time" continued to build the Pennywise's audience. Their songs were frequently featured in skateboard/snowboard films and that helped drive album sales. Also, Dragge developed the novel stage habit of vomiting on the audience.
'96 proved to be a most difficult year. Thirsk took a leave of absence to deal with his mounting alcohol problem. Once again, Bradbury signed on. This time around though, the plan was to have Bradbury move to rhythm guitar when Thirsk returned. Didn't happen. On July 29th, '96 Thirsk committed suicide following a drinking binge.
Shaken, Pennywise decided to continue with Bradbury becoming a permanent member. "Full Circle" was released in '97 and "Straight Ahead" in '99. "Live At The Key Club," recorded in L.A. and containing songs from all their previous albums, followed a year later.
"Land Of The Free" hit in '01 with the red tinged front cover of police in riot gear and the single "F*** Authority." Well, of course.
"From The Ashes" dropped in '03 and "The Fuse" landed two years later. The group's ninth album, Reason To Believe" was offered as a free download on MySpace in '08. An impressive 400,000 copies were downloaded. As a result the hard copy of the album only went to #98 on the Billboard 200.
The increased exposure was undercut when Lindberg announced his departure.
"After 20 years, nine albums and thousands of shows around the world, my time in Pennywise has come to an end," read Lindberg's statement. There are few things that made me more proud than seeing people at our shows singing our songs. I want to express my deepest thanks to all of you for sticking with us over the years, especially through the passing of Jason years ago. I would also sincerely like to thank everyone who helped us along the way, in every capacity, we never could have done it without you, and I wish everyone in the Pennywise family the best of luck and continued success."
At the time of the announcement, Pennywise had already begun work on their tenth album. Zoli Teglas was selected to replace Lindberg. The frontman for the Hardcore Punk band Ignite, Teglas had experience with Pennywise. He performed with them during the '09 Smokeout Festival, when Lindberg was unavailable due to filming a documentary based on his book, Punk Rock Dad: No Rules, Just Real Life.
"All Or Nothing," Pennywise's first album with Teglas, arrived in '12. But Teglas injured his back during a concert and required surgery. On top of that, he wanted out.
Pennywise scheduled an early '13 reunion show with Lindberg (who left in '09) at the Palladium in L.A. The show sold out in 10 minutes. A second show was added the following day.
The group's 11th studio album, "Yesterdays," which dropped in '14, marked Lindberg's return.
1993 Unknown Road
1995 About Time
1997 Full Circle
1999 Straight Ahead
2001 Land Of The Free?
2003 From The Ashes
2005 The Fuse
2008 Reason To Believe
2012 All Or Nothing
Pennywise is politics (liberal) with the standard "don't mess with us" attitude. They found initial success with skaters, snowboarders and surfers. Those are high impact, high intensity sports. It proved to be an excellent match. At their best, they blend a Punk attack with Speed Metal drive. The break-neck rhythm section, Dragge's machine-gun chords and Lindberg's full-throttle Punk vocals are the group's main draws.