Carry the Banner – Pinhead Gunpowder

Release Year: 1994

Rating: 7/10

Pinhead Gunpowder is a punk band that’s most notable for including Billie Joe Armstrong and Jason White from Green Day. They’ve been active since the early ’90s and though they sporadically record new music, they have two full length albums and seven EPs. Carry the Banner is their debut LP and it shows off Armstrong’s punk rock side. While there’s nothing special or mind blowing about the music, the songs are still interesting enough the hold your attention for 14 full minutes.

As mentioned before, the music here takes on more of classic punk rock feel. Fast, rough, and raw music takes over tracks like “Before the Accident” and “Find My Place.” Even though the music is good, after a while it all starts to sound similar: energetic three-chord rock played at a fast pace. While this is not the strongest point of the LP, the lyrics are what really makes these songs. They play out like one minute punk rock stories. “I Am the Stranger” talks about a person who is feared just because they don’t fit in and “I Used to Be” is about reflecting on the old days and how things used to be. Personally, these tracks made me think of Simon Pegg’s character in The World’s End. He played a punk rocker who wasn’t ready to change and kept talking about how good things were back in the day.

Certain Things” has an interesting singing style that’s part stop/start and stream of conscious. It’s a bit sloppy making it a bit difficult to make out what they’re, but it plays into the overall punk rock vibe of the album. The music is really energetic and follows the rhythmic flow of the vocals. The closing track “Mahogany” is strange, yet intriguing. You may be surprised to learn it’s a Diana Ross cover, but with a punk twist. Billie brings his sweet, melodic singing to the rough, gritty music that’s a great match up. The band does such a good job with the track you wouldn’t even know it’s a cover unless you already knew the song.

The most intriguing song on the album is “Reach for the Bottle.” This is one of those deceptive tracks where the music is upbeat and fun, perfect for moshing, but the lyrics tell another story. It’s about someone who is slowly destroying themselves with drugs and alcohol. Meanwhile, a friend can only sit back and let it happen. It’s heartbreaking when Jason White sings “Now the only time I see you smile and sigh/The only time I see that sparkle in your eye/Is when you talk about getting another bag of dope.” By the end, the protagonist is so sick of his friend’s downward spiral that he grabs a bottle and heads down a similar path. It’s a really tragic song that too many people can relate to.

While listening to the songs you’ll notice Billie Joe Armstrong and Jason White share vocal duties. Of course Billie has the more melodic voice, which comes out the most on the tracks “Walking Catastrophe” and “I’m an Elephant,” which both sound like stripped back Green Day songs. White’s vocals aren’t the best, but when you get used to them, you start to appreciate them a little more. His vocals are more gruff and sloppy than Billie’s, yet it gives him more of the punk rock sound. The combination of their voices works really well because if Billie were given sole vocal duty, the album would run the risk of sounding too much like Green Day. By having White sing, it gives the band a different sound.

Overall, the albums gets 7/10. It’s short, sweet, and full of attitude like the best punk albums. White and Armstrong share vocal duty, which keeps it from sounding entirely like Green Day and they tackle classic punk rock fast and head-on. The only downside is how after a while the three-chord music begins to sound the same making some of the songs difficult to decipher from the others. Still, the album does a great job of returning Billie Joe to his punk rock roots.

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