Sound — 7
Bad Religion has always stood out amongst their peers, check this out - punk-rockers with higher education, no mohawks, no f*uck the system, no fancy DIY crap, no sex/drugs/rock'n'roll (almost). Live long, be wise! Maybe they're not punk at all? I'm afraid they are. And, most of the time, even more punk than some of the "obvious" and "iconic" bands. "Against The Grain" (1990) was BR's 5th LP and essentially a part of the "Holy Three" as coined by the fans - together with "Suffer" (1988) and "No Control" (1989). Not much to tell about the recording process - as before, the tracks were laid at Brett Gurewitz's Westbeach Recorders studio in Hollywood, CA and produced by the band themselves. But the outcome happened to be one of California's finest punk records - 17 tracks clocking in just under 35 minutes, utterly real, like life itself. From the first blast of the snare drum to the last chord, it's incredibly fascinating and easy record to listen. Greg Graffin and Mr. Brett have reached new heights on "Against The Grain" - hardcore songs are still dominant, but the album's main strength is in slower, mid-tempo cuts like "Faith Alone", "21st Century (Digital Boy)", "Against The Grain", "Anesthesia".
Lyrics — 7
Bad Religion's Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz creative duo resembles a "healthy songwriting competition", as stated by bass player Jay Bentley. 99% of the songs are written either by Greg or Brett with little or none collaboration. As with Clash, Graffin's compositions are generally more hardcore, straightforward punk with those "intelligent stuff" in lyrics, while Mr. Brett's songs contain way more metaphors and simply... Poppier, I guess. The themes on the album range, as usual, from the ecological problems and mankind's extinction ("Modern Man", "Flat Earth Society", "Entropy", "Unacceptable") to the questions of religion and personal reflections ("Faith Alone", "God Song", "Walk Away", "Anesthesia"). The band's vocal trademark - oozin aahhs (or three-part harmonies, as known in music) are fully present on the record, emphasizing the songs' choruses.
Overall Impression — 9
Compared to the rest of BR's albums, it's easily the best one. And it was commercially successful too - 100,000 units sold with no singles produced, no airplay received and no videos made. As for the rest of punk industry, "Against The Grain" is not as diverse and listener-friendly as some other major releases, but mind this: the year is 1990 and punk-rock music is not in the charts yet (not even grunge) and Epitaph is still a fledging label. Despite this, I consider Against The Grain a gem of 1990s punk and a truly remarkable record in terms of lyrics, music and attitude. Best songs again came from Brett's mind - "Anesthesia", "21st Century (Digital Boy)", "Walk Away". Greg Graffin's "Modern Man", "God Song" and "Faith Alone" can be named as highlights as well. Overall, this is the last "classic" punk record of hardcore era before alternative music exploded and I would be extremely disappointed not to see it in any 100 essential records of the 90s list.