Artist: Bad Religion
Album: True North
It’s a rainy Saturday morning in March of 2012, and I’m with my now-girlfriend and we’re on the way to the National Mall in Washington DC. We’re not going to soak in the landscapes, the monuments, or the museums. Why were we there? Bad Religion. Bad Religion has been a band since 1979, and people were still coming out in droves to see them. While my knowledge of Bad Religion was cursory, I found myself completely enthralled by the performance they put on. Hell, I even circle-pitted with a fully-grown man in a Jesus costume. Can you say you’ve done that? Probably not. Kids both my age, younger and older were going out of their minds during Bad Religion’s set at the Reason Rally, and I think that’s a testament to the timelessness of their music and the mark they have left on punk. When I was tasked with reviewing their newest album True North, I was nervous because frankly who am I to say “this album is good” or “this album is bad,” because this is their sixteenth full length, and all of their previous releases are high quality (with few deviations). However I can say proudly and remarkably that Bad Religion has not lost their step, and have put out yet another punk release with True North that challenges the way you think, the way you live, and makes you just want to dance.
As with all my reviews, we’ll start with the musicality of the record. While Bad Religion is your bread and butter 4 chord punk band, they do it really, really well. However with True North, Bad Religion adds some really awesome bass lines and guitar leads that keep you really interested as you progress throughout the album. One of the problems with bands such as Bad Religion is that they get written off as “simple” and therefore “untalented” because they’re not working their way all over the fret board with ridiculous and extraordinary chord changes. Bad Religion cuts out the filler, and uses gorgeous harmonies between every instrument in the band to make a really big sound while keeping it bare bones punk. These types of bands, at least for some, can get very boring and stagnant, but that is never the case with True North. Songs like “Crisis Time” absolutely slay on the record. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s got amazing harmonies that not only make you want to smash a wall in with a sledgehammer, but also have a lot of pure beauty to them.
For me personally one of the biggest draws of Bad Religion is the vocals and lyrics of Greg Gaffin. In a punk genre where bands are trying to show who is tougher, who is rougher, Greg doesn’t take part in this pissing contest and sings absolutely gorgeous melodies and harmonies. But we’d all be kidding ourselves if we ignored that the best part of the vocals on True North is the lyricism. Being that, you know, he has a Ph.D. the lyrics are incredibly smart, and pose really big questions. However Greg does a great job of taking those big questions and making them extremely relatable, and poses them in a way where he does not come across as pretentious, which could have very well been the case considering his level of education. “Dept. of False Hope” is a wonderful call to arms, urging people to not wait for someone to fix all the world’s problems and to take matters into your own hands. For a band full of people old enough to be my father, they do a hell of a job creating topics that are relevant to not just their generation, but also mine as well.
Bad Religion is not one of those bands that will ever just go away. There will eventually be a day when they stop playing live shows (and I urge you to see them before that time comes), but their music, including True North, will always stand the test of time. In a world where bands like Guns N’ Roses and Styx need to just quit already, I urge Bad Religion to keep pressing on and continuing to give listeners the gift of smart, mature music.
Written By: Tyler Osborne (Twitter)