Pennywise, Strung Out, Authority Zero, Saboteur

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After Green Day made punk acceptable to middle-class kids who bought their CDs at the mall, there was a void of product that was filled by an unlikely source: hard-core punk that didn't have the advantages of tastefully applied eyeliner and faux British accents. Those disgruntled suburban youths were in the mood to spend Mom and Dad's cash, so they embraced just about any sweaty group that came along, some with a legitimate punk history, and others with only their amateurism to recommend them. Initially, Pennywise fell into the latter category.

But over the course of two decades, the Southern California quartet has staked its claim as one of the pre-eminent American punk acts, releasing nine albums of melodic, common-man hard-core that has shown continued growth and a defiantly leftist political bent. Led by intimidating frontman Jim Lindberg, Pennywise's shows often evolve into shouting matches between Lindberg and the audience, creating a tortured ambience that suits the band just fine. Pennywise's most recent effort, Reason to Believe, ups the band's populist credibility even higher as the entire CD is available as a free download via MySpace records. Fast-paced, ugly and uncluttered by restraint, Pennywise is punk for frat boys and folks who holler about politics but would rather drink beer than take the time to vote.

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