The Penske File are band I've been in love with for a little while, since first hearing their incredible Burn Into The Earth album in 2016. It's a brilliant slab of heartfelt pop punk with splashes of folk. In October of last year the Canadian three piece released the single Come What May as a bit of a teaser for their upcoming new album. That album is now out and is Salvation. Released on the always great Stomp Records, this is an album I've been keen to hear for a while.
Salvation begins with a song named Kamikaze Kids. From the get go the track gets me pumped for the entire album with a great guitar intro and a massive scream of "yeah!" to really get the party started. Kamikaze Kids is a melodic pop punk song which has a bit of a feel of The Menzingers and The Gaslight Anthem, if you're a fan of those bands you'll definitely love this. I love a good build in a song and Kamikaze Kids has a great one towards its ending. It teases and teases and when you expect the song to explode the music drops out, the vocals remain and seem massive and this finishes off the song in a superb manner. Following this strong start to the album is the second track, Golden Futures. The song starts out slowly and fairly quietly before we are treated to a huge chorus. There is a feeling of epicness surrounding this chorus that not only hooks you in but gives you goosebumps. The lines "if we were to die, to die tonight, we wouldn't mind, oh it's alright" ring out throughout the song and I can only imagine just what a moment seeing this song played live would be. This is the first time on the album that The Penske File's patented harmonica makes an appearance. I didn't quite expect to say this in this review but the opening guitar riffs on Lakeshore kind of remind me of the Foo Fighters (what's a Foo? and why are they fighting it?). This doesn't last long though as the drums come in and drives the song forward with some urgency, whilst never losing any of its catchy melody. The track sees The Penske File in story telling mode as they sing about returning back to where they grew up and remembering all the little things that happened in different places.
The fourth song, Spin My History, starts out with a raw sound, immediately adding emotion to the track. It doesn't take long to revert back to the familiar Penske File sound and another massive chorus. This is a thoughtful song about looking back on your past. The lead vocalist does a fantastic job of giving a massive vocal performance, whilst also showing a great amount of restraint, as he delivers the lines. Fairgrounds picks the pace up with drummer Alex Standen delivering a huge rapid fire drum roll in the song's opening. This really catapults us into the track and gets us keen to see where it goes from there. Fairgrounds is about living your life to the fullest, living in the moment and not worrying about deep and meaningful things happening. Following this is the excellent American Basements. Here The Penske File slow things down as they sing a love song to the DIY punk scene. The American scene is the one referenced in the title of the song but they could easily be singing about DIY scenes all over the world. The harmonica is something that really attracted me to The Penske File's music when I first heard them so it's great to hear them use it in such a prominent role here. I haven't heard the band slow things down as much as they do here before but I have to say they do a fantastic job of it. The seventh song, Last Chance, is a real toe tapping, hip shaking kind of song. It brings in elements of street punk, skate punk and 60s rock 'n' roll to create one of the highlights of a great album. The tempo is high which encourages even more dancing! The song is actually about making sure you have the time of your life as you don't know when it will be "your last chance to dance."
The previously released Come What May is up next and fits into this album perfectly. It's a song that gets better and better every time you listen to it which is such a great quality for a song to have. This song is one big sing-a-long from the outset, something The Penske File really do specialise in. The simple chorus of "come what may!" repeated over and over in the middle of the song works brilliantly as a way of building towards a huge finale to the song. As soon as Yesterday's Getaway began I instantly thought of Party Time Liars from The Penske File's previous album, Burn Into The Earth, with that unmistakable harmonica sound and its big ol' chorus. I loved the pounding drums that accompany the chorus, really helping it to stand out. The band are in story telling mode once again as they recount some fight or flight scenarios that they've encountered and how they've dealt with them. I loved the intensity in Travis Miles' vocals on the final chorus. The penultimate song on Salvation is titled Young & Worthless and it's a banger. The song starts out slowly, hooking you with maybe the best guitar riff on the entire album. When the vocals come in you're ready to be taken on another fantastic ride. It's clear there has been a lot of thought put into the overall sound on production on this record. I loved the subtle harmonies on some of the vocals on Young & Worthless. It gives the song a whole new layer that you won't even realise is there unless you're listening extremely carefully. Last up is Blessed Unrest which has a great stop-start disjointed opening. After all of the glorious melody that we've been spoilt with on Salvation this is a little unsettling on the first listen but it certainly grows on you. The song's highlight and perhaps one of the biggest highlights of the entire album is the song's bridge which features some excellent gang vocals singing the simple line "we don't know, we don't know where we're going." A line so relatable to so many twenty-somethings in the world. A superb way to finish the album.
I truly believe that Salvation could be a huge breakthrough album for The Penske File, much like The ’59 Sound was for The Gaslight Anthem or On The Impossible Past was for The Menzingers. The Penske File have this special something that separates them from many of their peers. They write these incredible thoughtful songs and fill them with catchy choruses and huge hooks that will stay with you for a long time and will never get old. If you're not in the old The Penske File boat yet then now is definitely the time to climb onboard!
Stream and download Salvation here: https://thepenskefileband.bandcamp.com/album/salvation
Like The Penske File here: https://www.facebook.com/thepenskefile/
This review was written by Colin Clark.