Bad Religion – True North
Record Label: Epitaph Records
Release Date: January 22nd, 2013
Punk veterans Bad Religion have been a band for more than 30 years, which is absolutely unbelievable to me. Not because they’re old, but just because they’ve managed to stay relevant for so long, especially within punk itself. With that being said, I’ve heard of this band for a long time, but never was really into punk rock. Earlier this month, I had some free credit on Amazon MP3, so I decided to check out the new two Bad Religion singles from new album True North, “F**k You,” and the title track. Both tracks were very nice short bursts of punk rock, and really got me pumped for the record. Fast forward a couple weeks later, I cashed a paycheck of mine, and made a quick trip to Best Buy to see if I could find something else I wanted. I didn’t find that record, but noticed True North, and decided to pick that up. I don’t regret that whatsoever, because this is an interesting record. While I don’t listen to a lot of punk, I’m very open to it, and will certainly give it a chance. The main thing that I noticed about this record was the shortness of the 16 songs on this record; it’s 36 minutes with 16 songs, and most of them only clock in under 2 minutes. This is a nitpick, if anything, but the shortness of the songs can be rather bothersome if you’re not paying attention, so you can miss a whole song if you aren’t listening carefully enough. I’ve said that on other reviews, and it’s still relevant, because I tend to give records like these (records with a lot of short songs) a much more careful listen, because you can definitely miss a lot if you’re not careful. Since I’m on that subject, sixteen songs seems a bit much to me, too; the album may be only 35 minutes, but it does feel as though it drags on for awhile. I had this same problem with another record that came out last summer – it was a great record, and it was only about 40 minutes, but there were about 16 songs on it as well, and it seemed to drag on after awhile. I have the same feelings about this, honestly; it’s a great record, but it drags on after awhile. It’s mainly because a lot of the songs sound exactly alike, which is not bad if you’re a punk fan, but I was kind of looking for some variety on this record. There is a bit, don’t get me wrong, but it’s rather hard to find. It’s a fantastic record, so despite the lack of variety, it is worth listening to. With that being said, let’s travel true north, and see what makes True North a very solid record.
The record begins with the first single and title track “Truth North,” and this is the first song I actually ever listened to by Bad Religion. This really gave me a nice first impression of the band, too; vocalist Greg Gaffin is a very solid vocalist, whose lyrics are quite solid as well. The lyrics on this record are definitely as “punk” as they can get, so there’s definitely a lot of meaning and passion into them, that’s for sure. Instrumentally, this song doesn’t really do much for me, and it seems to end just as quickly as it started. Next track “Past Is Dead” starts off with a very slow guitar riff, and Gaffin’s vocals are a bit slowed down as well. Suddenly, though, the song picks up and erupts into a guitar solo frenzy. A lot of the songs have guitar solos in them, and that’s the one thing that really makes the record interesting. Well, that, and the lyrics, as I mentioned. Vocally, Gaffin sounds a lot like Bouncing Souls vocalist Greg Anttonito, and that’s a compliment, because I enjoy both vocalists. It’s just, the guitar solos are way too numerous, and after awhile, I started to think, “I get it. You guys know how to play your instruments.” Is that a bad thing? No, because they’re very talented musicians, but aside from a few tracks like “Past Is Dead,” and “Hello Cruel World,” there’s not too much diversity and variety in the record. And that’s really all I can say about it. Of course there are some highlights along the way, but it does kind of drag on after awhile, as I mentioned in the beginning of the review. For instance, fifth track (and other single) “F**k You” is definitely as punk as you can get. It’s angry, aggressive, and just a great track. Its title is also very frank and to the point as well.
As I mentioned, seventh track “Hello Cruel World” is another rather unique track, because it’s not your average “punk” song. It’s a bit much toned down, and it has a very somber feel to it, really. Even the title alone just screams somber, but it really works. It doesn’t slow the album down, and there is a really cool guitar solo in the middle that does pick the song (and record) back up. Ninth track “In Their Hearts is Right” is only about two minutes, but it’s a really awesome track because this is a track that really features a three-part harmony between vocalist Greg Gaffin, guitarist Brett Gurewitz, and bassist Jay Bentley. It’s really refreshing, but after that, there aren’t very moments left that really “wow” me, so to speak. Yeah, there’s a lot of very aggressive punk riffage, and lyrics that are rather angry, or outspoken, but it’s all the same. Eleventh track “Dept. of False Hope” is a standout track in that sense, because it does have rather angry lyrics, but it’s not as aggressive as other tracks. It’s also a bit longer as well, clocking in around 3 minutes, and that’s the last song to be over two and a half minutes. “My Head Is Full of Ghosts” is a track that’s quite interesting, though; it features some more three-part harmonies in the chorus, and with that alone, it’s quite memorable. Last track “Changing Tide” is another by the book punk track, but also does feature those three-part harmonies, and while it’s not very unique, it’s still a good album closer, nonetheless.