Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bad Religion Find Its True North Punk

With 16 tracks, 10 written by Greg Graffin and six by Brett Gerewitz, Bad Religion doesn't hold back on True North. The album fires up short, crisp storytelling songs that the band recorded last summer, with the run time of the entire album played out in about 35 minutes.

It's another testament that the punk band they formed in Los Angeles in 1979 still remains relevant, only they are more inclined to write about a more universal human experience than being rebellious youth. But that's not to say the two voices are separate. One is an extension of the other, a concept that drives the album from beginning to end.

True North by Bad Religion breaks for the human connection with the passion of punk. 

Everything about the album was a conscious decision, including writing songs that play to what they do and have done best. Just as they were once a band that played a very specific kind of music before evolving into rock anthems, they have come full circle. Rather than evolution, they wanted revolution.

In this case, True North shoots for the hard and fast tightness of who they were, while still serving up intellectual lyrics. Several songs are cut from the wisdom that Graffin and Gerewitz have amassed. And this time out, they touch the intellectual and emotional side of the music. It's smart and primal at once.

Although not the best track on the album, True North does the best job conveying where the band might be today. It pays homage to everything that can be learned, but then breaks against the grain in singing that for all the wisdom that's been laid out before, true north is found on the inside more than outside.

This theme creeps into several songs throughout the album, including Past Is Dead, Changing Tides, and In Their Hearts Is Right. The latter is especially poignant and straightforward: "Everybody knows what's in their heart is right." But perhaps more telling is the theme isn't limited to individual versus society. It plays to any almost any absolute constructs people might spend a lifetime erecting.

Bad Religion doesn't necessarily pick sides. They poke at the concept that corporations are people in Robin Hood In Reverse and then question unlimited guarantees for insatiable needs in Land Of Endless Greed, where the narration takes on a sarcastic out-of-touch tone, indicative of the time they wrote it.

One of the best tracks on the album, Fuck You, was released last year in advance of the album. Some people quickly dismissed it as an immature ode to a two-word curse, but it's surprisingly smarter — laying out that any statements of thoughtless conditioning will be recognized for what they are and, well, pissed off. They deliver with an angry joviality that sticks.

The song lays out one of the things that Bad Religion does best. 

Graffin, after all, is the best kind of teacher in that he can throw down his PhD or his punk. It's all the same to him. The band drives that point home again with Gurewitz taking lead vocals on Dharma and the Bomb, which weaves together Eastern religions, atom bombs, and I Dream Of Jeannie.

The album rocks in its entity. Hello Cruel World is richly harmonic. Vanity is classic punk. My Head Is Full Of Ghosts carries a sharply defined structure. Nothing To Dismay has a fiery chorus. The Island is a smooth rocker. Popular Consensus struggles a bit with its vocal and instrumental continuity, but the message is right. And Dept. Of False Hope is, strangely or not, is becoming a personal favorite.

The lineup on the album includes Graffin (vocals), Gurewitz (guitar), Brian Baker (guitar), Greg Hetson (guitar), Jay Bentley (bass), and Brooks Wackerman (drums). It was produced by Gurewitz with Joe Barresi. They recorded it in about a month.

True North By Bad Religion Quakes 9.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

This truly is a standout album by the band. While In The Dissent Of Man proves the band wasn't locked into punk, True North proves punk is still where they play most at home. It will easily appeal to fans who have tracked them over their 30-year plus career, but also makes a great introduction.

True North by Bad Religion is available on iTunes (first track free for now). True North is also up on Amazon and the CD can be found on Barnes & Noble. For tour information, find Bad Religion on Facebook.
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