True NorthFeatured review by: UG Team, on january 28, 2013 2 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: It's probably about time we found a word stronger than 'veterans' to describe LA punks Bad Religion. They are as long-standing as it gets; an institution in their own right with 34 years of experience. But the difficulty with institutions is that they tend to manifest in bricks, mortar and tradition, bearing very few changes over the years. It'll be no surprise to anyone that the sixteenthBad Religion album, "True North", is fast, melodic skate punk in the exact mould that they created for themselves all those decades ago. After rediscovering some of their high speeds on 2010's "The Dissent Of Man" they've picked up the ball and run with it, upping the tempo a couple of notches across most of the sixteen tracks.
You may have already read a review of a Bad Religion album in the last ten years – if you have, read it again and imagine it applies to this new batch of songs not only in sound but in quality. That's their consistency. Among the songs which hit the hardest are "Vanity", "Popular Consensus" and the title track. The only 'slow' affair, comparatively or otherwise, is "Hello Cruel World", which is good for variety but ultimately average. If you're looking for variety from this sort of album then you're better off looking elsewhere. Chances are you know exactly what you're looking for, you know Bad Religion provide it and you can hear those powerchords in your head already. // 7
Lyrics and Singing: Musical expression is limited by the tools of punk trade but master raconteur and quintessential punk singer Greg Graffin only has the form of his rhyming couplet to consider, and always has something different to say. "The Island" forces some awkward rhymes and "F--k You", a tribute to the linguistic uses of profanity, is ironically rather clunky but "Dept. Of False Hope", "Dharma And The Bomb" and "Robin Hood In Reverse" are vintage Graffin. The sharp, resonant political discourse isn't quite as frequent as it perhaps ought to be given their reputation and the wealth of ammunition available in the current climate, but when he is at the top of his game there are few who do it better. // 8
Impression: There must come a point in the future, perhaps when they're all in their 70s, when these guys run out of steam, their sound stagnates and their achievements move from present to past tense. Somehow, something lives on. It's not originality, creativity or innovation, it's the energy and passion inherent in the style of music which Bad Religion have on tap and provide (again) on "True North". Enjoy every second of it while they're around.
Jau_Peacecraft, on february 12, 2013 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: "That's your moral compass but what good is it to me?" ~ Greg Graffin, "True North"
Prior to this album's release in 2012, Brett Gurewitz had commented, while praising Pennywise's surprising release of "All Or Nothing", that he was inspired to create "Another No Control" for his own band & Epitaph founding mainstay, Bad Religion.
Now, let's be realistic here: any Bad Religion fan who read this, was probably full of doubt. You do not just drop that album name in a casual conversation without discussing how influential it was & still is. The most recent attempt at this kind of classical throwback was also 2007's ambitiously uneven & faux old-school New Maps of Hell, so a bit of trepidation was warranted.
For once, it wasn't.
The lead single, "**** You" is almost a complete meta joke on Bad Religion's own intellectual lyrics ("You can even get cerebral if you want to" & "Sometimes it takes no thought at all / The easiest thing to do / Is say **** you"), wrapped up in a more aggressive & straight forward punk song, with just the right amount of multi-syllabic Graffin verse play & the staple "Ozzin Ahhs". Following behind is also another interesting, refreshingly more rock oriented number called "Dharma And The Bomb" featuring... Brett Gurewitz on lead vocals?
When did new Bad Religion ever do that?
The brilliant moments on this album are almost too numerous to list: the sudden budget vocal panning while Brooks hammers away on the drums in the intro to "My Head Is Full Of Ghosts", the aggressive old-school snare intro & completely infectious sing along chorus in "Nothing To Dismay", the surprising rhythm build-up in the verses of "Popular Consensus", the almost "Generator" sense of exploration in crunching guitars in "Crisis Time", the quick "No Control" start to "In Their Hearts Is Right" & a pleasing "Against The Grain" feel to the slowed down / sped up chorus.
Even after the slower respite from "Hello Cruel World", the urgent, more hardcore "Vanity" kicks the album right back into gear, sounding like a far better version of "Murder" from "NMOH". The faster songs here on True North have a sense of organic speed & urgency that we haven't really heard in full since "Supersonic" opened up "Process Of Belief". That isn't to demean the last 3 albums faster material, nor the albums themselves, but it's far more effective here.
Every song even the more briefer than usual closing track "Changing Tide", manages to fit together cohesively, neither overstaying their welcome or just being underwhelmingly brief, with all 16 tracks clocking in at a much leaner 35 total mins. // 9
Lyrics and Singing: Lyrically, both Brett & Greg are on par with one another, & help focus the album's themes (the irrationality of politics & corporate personhood, narcissism, illusions of security brought upon our own delusions, to name only a few brought up) into a more personalized way to the listener, even going far more existentialist on tracks like "The Island" & "Hello Cruel World".
You even get the sense that finding the title of the album itself, "True North", is almost a literal description of what the band is doing here: delving into their classical sound as a means to illuminate a clearer way to future albums, after the uncertainty of their most recent output. // 9
Impression: I hate to bring up the concept of a "spirit" or "geist" with an album that implies "my head is full of ghosts" already, but despite musical, technical & rational analysis, there's a certain vague charm found on "True North" that isn't found on the genre tweaking & folk / arena rock forays of the band's last few albums ("Dissent Of Man", "New Maps Of Hell" or "The Empire Strikes First", respectively).
Nothing is sacrificed for the runtime: the solos are solid, efficient ("no solos beyond 16 bars" old school rules). Graffin's vocals are as perfectly suited to this band as usual, keeping up with the higher speed & syncopation of this album’s compositions.
The guitar trio of Hetson, Baker, & Gurewitz keep driving the energy forward with the riffs & provide a convincing argument that this album might the best thing the band has recorded since acquiring 3 guitarists.
Rounding up the rhythm section is Wackerman conducting the speed for the rest of the band behind the drums, & Bentley glueing it all together on the bass.
But I digress; while "True North" is not the promised "sequel" to 1989's "No Control", it comes pretty damn close. If anything, it feels much more like a sequel to either "Process Of Belief" or "Stranger Than Fiction", & while I still enjoy & appreciate their 2004 to 2010 output, this album is on another level altogether, & deserves to be considered a classic album in it's own right.
With the band inching closer to the source, "True North" is truly a blast. // 10