Review Summary: Bad Religion's most diverse offering.
When Bad Religion released Recipe for Hate back in 1993, it was a polarizing album for their fans. Some felt that it was simply musical progression, or “maturity” (the euphemism bands use to signify they’re going more mainstream), but the majority did not. The majority (as represented by my friends and I) felt that it was a total sell-out. At the time we still believed that Punk was all about playing fast and aggressive with confrontational lyrics for 30 minutes at a time and anything else was watering it down. You had Fat Mike of NoFx stating that he was very open minded about music, and that he liked both genres of it; harcore and punk. You had Lagwagon writing songs defending gay people before it was “cool” to do or Pennywise with it’s unfocused rebellion (as a teenager that’s ok though), and of course the “classics” such as Minor Threat that took non-conformance to an entire lifestyle called “straight-edge”. Also within the punk culture, as we knew it, was Bad Religion. The band capable of writing fast angry songs that somehow were still melodic and catchy, songs that you couldn’t get through without a damn dictionary.
Bad Religion was at the top of the heap for us, and represented all the things we thought punk should be, and then they released this album. We felt betrayed by the friendly sounding tracks on this CD. This album saw Bad Religion mellowing out considerably. Even the first two tracks where the music is kind of fast seemed restrained and poppy in a way they never had before. A large part of that came from the new drum sound. The drums had been toned down considerably, not just in volume but also in intensity. There were a lot more beats and rhythms thrown in, and had almost none of the generic punk beat we thought was a prerequisite for a punk band. Also, the guitars had been given a friendly, warm sound along with a healthy dose of additional non-punk influence including slide guitars, increased harmony, and much less speed. Worse yet, you could make it through an entire song and not be confused by the words being used in the lyrics, as if they were being dumbed down for the masses. In a nutshell, I hated this CD,
Fast-forward five or six years and I receive this CD again for Christmas after ditching my copy within weeks of it being released. Upon first listen I heard all the things that I’ve already described above, the new drum beats, the increased emphasis on melody over speed, and the lack of any words that I might have to look up in the dictionary, but the difference was that I saw the quality that I had refused to see before. The drum beats are more varied then ever before, but instead of creating the weaker album I thought it did, it actually created an album that was far more diverse then anything from their past. The guitars also had added more variety to their sound as well as to the riffs that they played. The guitars weren’t all played at blazingly fast speeds and they weren’t all pulling from the same small collection of chords as past albums. Also, although the lyrics were indeed easier to understand, they were still as poignant and confrontational as in the past, except these were probably more so because now anyone could identify with them. Basically, if you wanted to show just how talented this band is, then this was the album to let someone hear.
To show off that musicianship and quality song writing you could look no further then the second track “Kerosene”. This is one of the songs that best mixed the older speed with their new direction. The riffs on this song are more typical punk riffs then on a lot of the album, but they make them different by subtly altering them and adding little nuances as the song progressed. Then there is the abundance of slower songs such as “Man with a Mission” that features the slide-guitar mentioned earlier, or “Struck a Nerve” with it’s emotional lyrics, and great use of harmonized vocals in the bridge. Special mention should also be made about “Don’t Pray On Me” where they speed things up again, but compliment the punk riffs with the other guitar player making alternate use of squealing distortion and guitar solos throughout the song.
Now it’s fourteen years after I originally hated it and about ten years after giving it another chance and it has continued to grow on me. I see this now as Bad Religion’s most diverse offering and the best thing to come out of the “dark ages” they spent on Atlantic Records. It’s hard to pick an album from their catalog to recommend over anything else, but this would definitely be something that most Bad Religion fans would be into, and is probably the best place to start for anyone that is more into Alternative Rock then they are Punk. Just don’t go into it with any preconceived notions of what a Punk album should be, or you may ruin it just like I did.
I'm really tired and it's slow at work... I'm hoping that doesn't come across in the review (the tired part... the fact that there's a review shows that it was slow). If it does come across, I'll fix it when I get back up.
Good review, I cant believe that this didnt have one already.
That being said, perhaps I havent "progressed" as much but this is still in the bottom half of their catalog for me. It's not so much the slower pace of the songs, as that some of them are just plain bad!
American Jesus - Still one of their best ever IMO
Recipe for Hate
Portrait of Authority
Watch it Die
All Good Soldiers
My Poor Friend Me
Modern Day Catastrophists
I don't mean "progressed" in any kind of derogatory way towards people who don't like this album. I mean it about me specifically trying to stereotype what punk should be, and disliking this album cause it didn't fit that stereotype... until I progressed beyond stereotyping what a band should and shouldn't play.
Those are two of their greats. Starting there, you need to go to Suffer and Against the Grain next or this will be a letdown I think.
While I don't think that this album would be a let down, I do agree that Suffer and Against the Grain would be more worth while purchases.
One of BR's most underrated records. I don't get the hate for "All Good Soldiers", that's one of BR's weirder tracks that's actually really good. My personal favorites are Portrait Of Authority, Skyscraper, Man On A Mission, and Struck A Nerve.
In a very basic summary, this album is best described as Greg Graffin's love of country and folk music coming into the forefront. When I first started getting into punk, I too thought that all "good" punk should be fast, but I didn't hate this album because I already had a country background when I first listened to this album in the early 2000s.
The fact that they released this "diverse" album on the major label is remarkable in itself.
I am with Descendents1 up above: Suffer, No Control, Generator, and Against the Grain are all great albums. When I was 16 in '89 I would borrow my dad's truck to pick up some friends and go skating. That would usually be around 7pm. The dj who had that shift on KTRU (Rice University in Houston) would always play 'I Want To Conquer The World'. I didn't know who the band was yet, but the lyrics really spoke to my 16 year old brain in a way that made me feel strong, responsible, and capable. A year or so later my buddy gave me the cassette of Against The Grain and I was blown away. Nothing like music that makes you feel excited, thoughtful, and loud at the same time! I then proceeded to get the rest of what was available. No Control was just so powerful- and it was then that I realized that this was the band who played I Want To Conquer the World. It was meant to be!
When Generator came out my friend and I sat in her car and listened to the whole thing and then reviewed it at the end, not talking over the music. It seemed like they had turned a corner, but we approved 100%. Then when Recipe came out...I tried and tried. I even listened to it regularly for a few months. I saw that tour (Bad Religion, Seaweed, Green Day: pre-dookie) and they played about 30 songs and rocked me. However, as far as Recipe was concerned, I was really put off by Eddie Vedder singing backups on Watch It Die. All those flannel flyin' (no offense to fIREHOSE) 'grunge' kids and their music was a real turn-off and I felt like they had said fuck it about a group of people who were faithful to them because of their non-lemming approach to life and music.
When I think about it now, punk at the time was really out of hand- not safely contained in 'our' little scene anymore but for sale everywhere. There was a huge backlash in the punk community (that's/you're/they're not Punk). Looking back I wonder if BR was just trying to stir the pot in the punk world by offering us the (not so appetizing) opportunity to wrap our brains around them having something to do with somebody who was Not Cool For Punx (Vedder). Or, maybe there Were just getting some cheap exposure to another fan base.
Anyhow, I like Recipe For Hate a lot more now. Especially Skyscraper and Kerosene.