By Rob Barker
January 30, 2013
As California’s old guard of pop-tinged punk, Bad Religion have seen more trends come and go than a lot of their contemporaries, but they manage to stay true to their tried and tested sound. Lyrically, True North is just as much of a commentary on the world as it ever has been, covering capitalism, environmental issues and humanity’s search for unobtainable perfection; and the sound follows suit.
From the opening title track, which features the band’s trademark vocal harmonies, to the D-Beat drums of ‘Vanity’ this is everything you’d expect of Bad Religion, and it really doesn’t throw up too many surprises, but there’s a certain beauty in integrity. Where a lot of bands change their sound, and lose their core following as a result (I’m looking at the Offspring in particular) Bad Religion are unashamedly unchanged, and for good reason; they’re great at what they do.
Greg Graffin sings every line with just as much conviction as on their first album in 1982, proving that just because you’ve held lectures on paleontology (seriously, Google it) it doesn’t make you the punk version of Ross from Friends. Elsewhere on the album, guitarist Brian Baker shows as much in the way of dynamics as he can within the Bad Religion format, from the grungy slow grind of ‘Hello Cruel World’ to the breakneck pace of ‘Endless Greed’, they might not be incredibly memorable guitar lines, but they provide each song with exactly what it needs.
Finally it’s worth mentioning the album’s production, which is straightforward and to the point: the drums and bass are high in the mix, giving each track massive impact and an instantly recognisable sound; and considering the man behind the desk was Joe Baressi, who also worked on the album’s precursor The Dissent Of Man, it comes as no surprise that he’s got the Bad Religion hallmark sound down to a tee.
If you’ve never been a fan of Bad Religion then True North isn’t going to change your mind, equally if you’re a fan who’s grown weary of the band’s sound then don’t expect anything different. But, if you’re a die-hard fan of the band, or even if you’ve never heard them before, then this is a defining album, it incorporates every key element of their sound; in other words this is a more concentrated Bad Religion.