CD Review: Bad Religion – True North

CD Review: Bad Religion – True North
All Access Review: B+

Bad Religion - True North 2013
Outraged about so many things these days, from the Citizens United ruling to corporate avarice, the regressive fascism of Tea Party politics and – their favorite target – close-minded religious zealotry, punk stalwarts Bad Religion air their latest laundry list of grievances on True North

Still feisty after all these years, as evidenced by the inclusion of a fiery expression of inarticulate rage titled “Fuck You,” Greg Graffin, Brett Gurewitz and company are just as intensely intellectual and righteously angry as they were when they came of age in Ronald Reagan’s America in the early 1980s.

PhD. In hand, Graffin goes off in search of justice and reason in an age devoid of both, as Bad Religion – a model of precision and control, with a multitude of guitars blazing away – packs short, punchy bursts of incendiary, yet irresistibly melodic, punk rock with rhetorical gunpowder into True North, as “Land of Endless Greed,” “In Their Hearts is Right,” “My Head is Full of Ghosts,” “Nothing to Dismay” and “The Island” go off like small grenades full of barbed hooks. Dashing to the finish line in record time is 1:01 “Vanity,” the fastest song Bad Religion has ever recorded, and the title track jumps out of the speakers like a panther.

Some machines are just more finely tuned than others. Built for speed, Bad Religion’s engine is running at peak efficiency, with little wasted motion, taut rhythms and those great backing vocals harmonies that serve as Bad Religion’s secret weapon. These rapid-fire songs are tense and indestructible, although Bad Religion loosens the nuts a little on the metallic, rumble “Dharma and the Bomb” – which somehow sounds like The Clash’s “Brand New Cadillac” filtered through a rush of the Foo Fighters’ adrenalized pop – and the gasping, slow-burn “Hello Cruel World,” which lacks the cardiovascular strength of the rest of True North.  

Speaking up for downtrodden, “Dept. of False Hope” is not exactly a ray of sunshine for economically beaten up blue-collar heroes, but it does fight for their dignity and exhorts communities to do what they can to lift up the less fortunate. Bad Religion has always been idealistic, and age hasn’t turned them into cynics. What they are is punk and hardcore’s version of AC/DC or Motorhead, churning out the same albums decade after decade and still managing to duck criticism for doing so. Though there is some diversity on True North, these old dogs don’t want to learn any new tricks, and after a while, some of these songs tend to run together. In the end, Bad Religion just wants to sharpen and streamline their guitar-driven attack to the point where it serves as a perfectly designed missile delivery system for warheads of the truth – at least as Graffin sees it. With True North, Bad Religion is pointed in the right direction, and spoiling for a fight. (

-          Peter Lindblad

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