don angelini looks at the latest from the punk legends…
For their anticipated follow-up to 2010’s The Dissent Of Man, Southern California’s Bad Religion has successfully assembled a memorable short but sweet punk record that is True North. 16 songs long and clocking in at roughly 35 minutes, the album was clearly inspired by where the band has been and the roots of their early years bringing them later commercial success in the 90’s. This was recently addressed by guitarist/songwriter Brett Gurewitz in an interview with SPIN.
“By the time we put out Stranger Than Fiction in ’94, we were playing big, sprawling anthems. We had a gold record. We had a radio hit or two. And that’s allowed. Groups and artists need to evolve, and that was also really exciting, but that’s not who we are, and that’s not what we were ever aiming for…And that’s really what happened when Bad Religion became a mainstream crossover band. But it occurred to Greg and I that, rather than trying to recapture that, what we should be trying to recapture is the thing that led to that.”
True North will certainly win over many old(er) heads sounding like a cohesive hybrid of The Gray Race, Stranger Than Fiction, and The Process Of Belief. This is achieved musically through simple yet surprising elements via the classic Bad Religion sound without sounding recycled. The sudden but brief pauses in the title track, “Hello Cruel World”, “In Their Hearts Is Right”, and “Crisis Time” allow well-placed contrast to the galloping hook-filled “Nothing To Dismay” or the soon-to-be circle pit anthem that is “Vanity”. “Past Is Dead” exemplifies a satisfying “calm before the storm” before picking up speed once again while “Dharma And The Bomb” uniquely different to most of the album channels later-Rocket From The Crypt. I am going to go out on a limb and say it is possibly the dirtiest straight-up rock-and-roll song Bad Religion has done. I was hesitant upon initial listen but seconds later, I found it incredibly refreshing. The songwriting is still some of the best for their respective genre, for example in “My Head Is Full Of Ghosts.”
A partition from the host.
A temple of cognition
And forbidden to approach.
Oh, to hell with superstition.
There’s a stranger in the house.
I don’t need no exorcism.
I need a key and the lock is inside out.
Brothers, say goodbye.
Sisters, don’t you cry, yeah.
All embrace the times.
Wade into the changing tide.
If this is true, they definitely went out with a bang and worthy bookend of their 30+ year career dedicated to intelligent, melodic punk.