Album Review: True North – Bad Religion
It’s funny how things change over time, while staying pretty much exactly the same. When I was a younger and happier man I spent numerous periods standing outside of my high school and reciting Bad Religion lyrics with my friends (we were scholars of a different sort). Without the aid of a dictionary, my compatriots and I would try to figure out what "jurisprudence" meant, using only the context clues of an eighty-two second punk song comprised of a limited, yet perfect, amount of chords. Back then, in the days before iTunes, Bad Religion was an authentic, legitimate, thinking man's punk rock band, which you listened to with excessive pride. Today Time magazine thinks they’re “pop-punk”.
By this point in Bad Religion’s 33-year career, everything they release is greeted with a combination of reverence and nostalgia. Such sentiments would be appropriate if you were spinning (FYI: I will continue to refer to playing music as "spinning" till the day I die), say, Against The Grain, but I bet Bad Religion doesn’t want their current work to receive such treatment (really, who would?). Nevertheless, it’s frankly impossible to listen to a band which has been around all of your life without having at least one foot in the past, so please allow 14-year old Giovanny to take it from here- after all, he is an authority on matters such as these.
What’s good everyone? I just finished re-reading a Sandman trade paperback, and I'm about to head up to Yankee Stadium while rockin' my Airwalks, corduroy jeans (brown), band t-shirt (Nirvana, of course), and open flannel. I can't wait to watch that pretty boy Derek Jeter (Grown-up Giovanny notes: somehow, I hated Jeter during his rookie year. Oh yeah, a girl was involved) collect phone numbers as Paul O'Neil racks up the hits while being a total warrior. Before I get on the train, and pay $1.25 for my fare (chew on that for a second, New Yorkers) I would like to share some thoughts with you on this new Bad Religion CD-er-um... I mean album.
True North is kinda dope, I guess. Like, I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite Bad Religion record or anything, but it isn't wack either. Shit starts off tight; the title track kicks like classic BR, and makes me think about things like NAFTA, and whether I’ll ever be happy and stuff, but then I heard some phaser on Past Is Dead- which had a slow-ish intro- and I was way perturbed, man. Eventually the song kicked off with a killer lead line, but Past Is Dead was as unfulfilling as the series finale of Seinfeld. Then came Robin Hood In Reverse, which is almost as awesome as 40s of OE, and I’m going to make sure my band learns the tune so we can play it at Sid’s birthday (I knew a girl back in high school who was a punk rocker and went by "Sid". Needless to say, all the boys in school had numerous fantasies about her). Oh and, on the other end of the spectrum, Land Of Endless Greed is, um... highly derivative or something.
Fuck You is another pretty dope-ish cut, because... well, it’s called Fuck You! How punk is that, dude? I bet no one else ever had the balls to name a song Fuck You (Mid-90s Giovanny didn’t have the patience to fire up his 56.6kbps internet connection, and research whether or not other songs have that title. Many do). Dharma And The Bomb is also a solid track I should mention, and features some great attitude-drenched guitar work from Bad Religion's bomb-ass three guitar attack... Wait, when did Bad Religion get a third guitarist? What’s happening here? Why is Derek Jeter old and losing his hair?
It was at his point that Giovanny from the past began to suffer a serious case of future shock, so we subdued him, placed him back in our company time machine (disregard that last detail), and made bitter, old, and now slightly-different Giovanny (damn you space-time continuum!!!) finish this review.
Well, apparently that was a huge mistake! Look, I’m pretty sure you understand where both versions of me are going with this review. Bad Religion is as seminal as a band can be when they're not British and from the 60s, but "seminal" is rarely synonymous with "current". Bad Religion is still teaching the same vital lessons about government, corporate greed, and the pitfalls of humanity; they are even doing so in the same tenor. The problem is, I've gotten older and the world has too. There is absolutely no doubt the youth of this planet can still benefit from songs like Popular Consensus and The Island, I just don’t think they’re listening.
I hope my sentiments aren’t the product of cynical disillusionment (read: getting older), and I hope Bad Religion continues to make records like this forever... because somebody has to.