Review Summary: Great release from punk collegiates Bad Religion. Far from their best, but a quality listen nontheless.
Bad Religion – Stranger Than Fiction
Greg Graffin – lead vocals
Greg Hetson – guitar
Brett Gurewitz – guitar, backing vocals
Jay Bentley – bass guitar, backing vocals
Bobby Schayer – drums, percussion
Bad Religion is a great band. A bold statement, but it is safe to say that a poorly done album by Bad Religion equates to a good to great album generated by any other band. They have their formula; simple catchy punk songs with intelligent lyrics and the occasional guitar solo; but it rarely gets old. Stranger Than Fiction is no different, a usual Bad Religion album; it consists of fifteen short, simple tracks with infectious power chords and hefty political content in the lyrics. It is nothing new, just a regurgitation of a tried and true formula that works.
Everything starts with vocalist (and life science PhD) Greg Graffin and his deep, nearly sage-like voice. His singing is what it is on this album, decent, but the strong lyrics are present. Among his best moments are the thirty seconds of “The Handshake” where his voice chants “fend for yourself and shun the handshake” a powerful line topping off an already spectacular song. His voice is complemented by the appearance of punk gurus Tim Armstrong of Rancid and Jim Lindberg of Pennywise on the songs “Television” and “Marked” respectively.
Now-vilified guitarist/backing-vocalist Brett Gurewitz shines on his last release with the band with great performances on singles “Infected” and “21st Century Digital Boy”, two of the most successful tracks ever composed by Bad Religion. Composing those two tracks along with lesser known punk gems “Better Off Dead” and “Incomplete” Gurewitz makes the most of his final album, being personally responsible for the majority of its stronger tracks.
Stranger Than Fiction’s strongest track is easily Graffin’s punk masterpiece, “Inner Logic”. A chugging rhythm is layered with brilliant, insightful lyrics and a solid guitar solo. Though given little love in the face of hits like “Infected” this song is the highlight of the album, and should be given a shot by all who listen.
Bad Religion did not do much wrong with Stranger Than Fiction. The songs do get a bit repetitive, and several could be considered filler, but the album is by and large a great listen. It is by no means BR’s best release, but stacks up in the top five. It could be battered for selling out the punk spirit by being commercially successful, but any attempting to discredit the quality of this one would find themselves horribly mistaken.
The major complaint most detractors have of Bad Religion is that they do little to vary or create orginality within thier music. Not only is that difficult to do within the punk genre, it would me even more difficult to break habits that have earned you acclaim for over twenty years. As previously stated, Bad Religion have a formula that works, a formula that has kept them intact and popular for twenty plus years. This one is a typical Bad Religion release, a release substantially better than that of many of today's modern "punk rockers".
21st Century Digital Boy
Diehards Should Also Check
Hooray For Me…
Better Off Dead