The Penske File don’t play folk punk, so much that they play punk for, well, folks.
You know, the riff-raff, people like you and me who work shitty jobs, earn what they can, and live their life under-the-radar. Blue collar, working class, salt-of-the-earth. Their new album Salvation is a refreshing reminder of what the genre can do with earnest earthiness. This is punk rock, electric and loud, made from a working class perspective that drops the cosplay and goes for the gut. There’s no posturing here, Salvation is authentic folk punk, whatever you want that to mean.
“Kamikaze Kids” opens the album with a catchy guitar line and an even more arresting opening lyric, “It’s nice to be here, and it’s cool to meet you, shaking off the dirt, that’s just something we do.” It underlines the resilience and pride inherent in their perspective while giving the kids something to shout along to. Some might take that as a throwaway compliment, but I think the song’s singability, as well as its accessibility, is actually a virtue destined to be taken for granted. It’s loud and proud and meant for the people, a piece of art composed to glue a group together with words that’ll feel good slipping from their lips. For me, that’s what a lot of this kind of music misses. The Penske File get that the roots of rootsy music is community.
And the songwriting is strong enough to cement a community. Sticky melodies, dramatic drum builds, and tasty fretwork pop up all across Salvation. The Penske File are a talented band with excellent command over every stage of songwriting, from composition to arrangement to performance. “Lakeshore” shows some country influence, but it comes from an old well, one not often drank from. The big countrified harmonies evoke, but also transcend, Appalachian townships; hidden away from the modern world, not to be lionized, but real all the same. When the Penske File indulge in some of these more obvious folk affectations (the harmonica on “American Basements” deserves mention as well), they risk pushing themselves into a corner—or worse, an inevitable downward spiral that ends in a“Wagon Wheel” cover. Fortunately, the Penske File keep their music rooted in catchy punk rock, and the stylistic additions don’t feel like Salvation playing dress-up, but rather as a gap being bridged between two genres of commoner art.
Fans of the Penske File no doubt already know the band as formidable songwriters in a genre with an eternal hunger for songcraft. Salvation shines a spotlight on the common ground that is music, what we share between urban and rural. For the Penske File, rock ‘n roll is the new folk, and they treat punk rock as a springboard for communion, and from the path of communion, the Penske File bring salvation.