Bad Religion – True North (2013)

Bad Religion - True NorthWith sixteen albums under their belt and a career spanning over three decades, the American punk rock band Bad Religion is nothing short of an institute. From an impressive run back in the old days with classics like Against the Grain, Generator and Suffer, to the mainstream success of the nineties (and the release of some truly mediocre work in a Brett Gurewitz-less line-up) and the subsequent return to Epitaph Records, the band has seen some incredible highs as well as a few lows, and are still around to underline the fact that no, punk is not dead at all.

The return of Mr. Brett back in 2001 gave the band, at that time having put out the relatively uninspired No Substance and The New America on major label Atlantic Records, a shot in the arm, and catapulted the band back into the edgy punk rock corner they belonged. Records like The Empire Strikes First and New Maps of Hell were triumphs, showing the world that Bad Religion was still as relevant as ever, whilst the 2010 effort The Dissent of Man sported a more mainstream and mid-tempo rock style that didn’t exactly rub well with everyone. True North, the bands sixteenth album, is, however, a welcome return to form.

On True North the band does what it does best: playing pure old-fashioned punk rock. The pace is fast, the sixteen songs clock in at an average of two minutes per song (with only the mid-tempo Hello Cruel World nearly reaching the four minute mark) and vocalist/lyricist Greg Graffin sounds like his old, riled up self again. All of that is, of course, accompanied by the band’s now trademark ooh and aah choruses and some pretty catchy tunes. Upbeat tracks like Nothing to Dismay, The Island or Changing Tide, the blindingly fast Vanity and the brilliantly titled first single Fuck You are testaments to the kind of brilliant songwriting Gurewitz and Graffin are capable of, the two working like a sort of Lennon/McCartney of punk rock.

Amongst the sixteen songs are some that work amazingly well and, like on any album by any band, some that fall a bit flat compared to the better tracks (I still can’t seem to adjust to Dharma and the Bomb – which may or may not be blamed partially on Gurewitz’s main vocals – or the meandering Hello Cruel World), but True North nonetheless delivers thirty-six minutes of great punk rock, and it just might be the best Bad Religion album since 1993’s Recipe for Hate. That’s saying something.

Label: Epitaph Records

Tracklist:

  1. True North (1:56)
  2. Past Is Dead (2:39)
  3. Robin Hood in Reverse (2:53)
  4. Land of Endless Greed (1:53)
  5. Fuck You (2:14)
  6. Dharma and the Bomb (2:00)
  7. Hello Cruel World (3:50)
  8. Vanity Gurewitz (1:01)
  9. In Their Hearts Is Right (1:59)
  10. Crisis Time (2:39)
  11. Dept. of False Hope (2:40)
  12. Nothing to Dismay (2:07)
  13. Popular Consensus (1:53)
  14. My Head Is Full of Ghosts (1:46)
  15. The Island (1:28)
  16. Changing Tide (2:23)

Line-up:

  • Greg Graffin – vocals
  • Brett Gurewitz – guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals on Dharma and the Bomb
  • Brian Baker – guitar
  • Greg Hetson – guitar
  • Jay Bentley – bass, backing vocals
  • Brooks Wackerman – drums

Further surfing:

Review by Ralph Plug

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