Very few bands are able to sustain a career past a handful of albums, and that’s if they even make it to a handful. To remain interesting, exciting and fresh in an ever changing world is tough and while some bands can rely re-playing their radio hits over and over again, year after year – anything new they release is quickly passed over.
Bad Religion are an anomaly in the music scene. Thirty years after deciding to start their own band as pissed-off teenagers, the California punk band is still as relevant as ever. And unlike some bands, like Pennywise for example (really, did The Fuse add anything of note to their career?), Bad Religion are still able to write songs that push them forward. True North, the band’s sixteenth studio album, is proof of that.
Sonically, Bad Religion remains the same as ever. They’ve honed a sound and crafted it in such a way that it has become symbolic and not repetitive. True North is yet another example of that status. Greg Graffin’s vocals soar with multi-syllabic lyrics, flushed together by a chorus of harmonies and “woah”s. Brooks Wackerman’s drums are furious and fierce while the triple guitar attack of Brett Guerewitz, Brian Baker and Greg Hetson are filled with hidden gems only revealed after multiple listens; like the blistering solos on Nothing To Dismay and Land of Endless Greed that fly by almost as quick as they start. They’re not solos to show-off, but to round off the song instead.
Some may, and do, argue that their sound is too similar; but that argument falls flat as you listen to True North repeatedly. The album is dense and, like a good movie, requires multiple plays before everything begins to sink in. It’s an intelligent album, that simultaneously pushes their sound forward while bringing up memories of records long gone making it an album that could fit anywhere in their discography yet is undeniably 2013.
Lyrically, True North is introspective and rebellious – calling for change both inwards and outwards. Nothing is black and white and Graffin plays with that dilemma throughout the album with songs that make you question your own actions. So while Fuck You may seem like a coarse-slogan swinging tune, it is in fact one that paints the need for shout-able slogans. Robin Hood In Reverse could be the theme song for the Occupy movement while In Their Hearts Is Right, True North and Popular Consensus ensures that the listener examines their own actions as well.
Thirty years on, Bad Religion has more fire in them than some of the youngest bands around today and they show no signs of slowing down.