It can be said that it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance, or perhaps even a fluke, for a band to release an album that completely changed the genre it was born out of. To release two albums of that quality and influence can safely be called a staggering achievement rarely, if ever, seen in music today. But releasing three
can safely put you into "legendary" status. And somehow, Bad Religion did precisely that with 1988's Suffer
, 1989's No Control
, and this, 1990's Against The Grain
- jokingly referred to by the band as "our Holy Trinity".
Re-issued in 2004 along with all of BR's pre-Atlantic catalogue (aside from the much-maligned Into The Unknown
), Against The Grain
is/was an incredibly important album, and without much doubt one of the greatest punk rock albums ever made, hands down. It was the last album recorded with original drummer Pete Finestone, who left due to inter-band problems (i.e., Brett), who many fans still consider as BR's "best fit". Tellingly, it was also a sign of things to come in the more melodic, slower Generator
, with many tracks expanding past BR's usual minute-per-song formula to include more varied dynamics and a bit of a rock sound in several tracks, especially in 21st Century (Digital Boy)
, arguably the most "popular" Relidge song ever. Widely considered Bad Relgion's best album, many of BR's catchiest, strongest songs appear here. This is the ultimate product of BR's golden era, where all of the best aspects of the band, originally laid down by Suffer
, honed in No Control
, and now, perfected - intertwining, melodic guitar riffs, vituperative hard-hitting lyrics, speedy intensity, amazing vocal harmonies - all comes together perfectly. EVERY single track smokes, no doubts about it.
Refining the trademark twin-guitar attack of Brett Gurewitz and Greg Hetson, making great lyrics even better than before (many of which still resonate deeply even today), as well as stepping up the catchy melodies AND aggression all at once, ATG
is an hard-hitting, raw record that never lets up for a single second, even when it hits mid-tempo. Not to be outdone, Jay lays down some awesome bass throughout the album, especially in tracks like Against The Grain
as well as a mini-solo in Turn On The Light
. Pete Finestone, while a bit simplistic compared to new skinsman Brooks Wackermann, keeps the action solid and steady, while pulling out some nice fills in 21st Century
and the outro to Anesthesia
"One with attitude". A great description for this CD, but that's actually what Greg says right before the album explodes with Modern Man
, one of the best BR songs ever (and simply a fantastic opener), featuring a searing lead courtesy of Mr. Brett alongside Hetson's trademark buzzsaw barre chords. Graffin's anti-conformist, pro- screeds are in full-force here, with lyrics like "I've got nothing to say/I've got nothing to do/All of my neurons are functioning smoothly, but still I'm a cyborg just like you." And boom, it's over in under two minutes but the Doc Marten bootprint will still be in your ass. Turn On The Light
features some brilliant vocal harmonies as well as the aforementioned bass solo. "And I'll burn, like a Roman ***in' candle/BURN!/Like a chasm in the night/BURN!/For a miniscule duration, ecstatic immolation, incorrigible delight" Graffin sings amidst call-answer oozin' ahhs.
are great tracks that showcase the added dynamics present in Brett and Greg's tandem, favoring some jazzy chords and more riff-based melodies thrown inbetween the power chord chaos the band is normally known for. But a true standout for the band is Anesthesia
, a Brett-penned catchy-as-crabs song with a classic power-chord/riff intro, containing plenty of allegory and metaphors for his (then) heroin addiction with some simply brilliant, poetic lines that rank up there with BR's finest. "Anesthesia/Mona Lisa/I've got a little gun, here comes oblivion/I never loved you/How did you find me"/The cops will never prove complicity". A clever Beatles reference ("1,2,3,4...") from Mr. Brett follows, with the refrain "all good children go to heaven". The outro is what will really grab you, where the beat drops to half-time over the main riff in one of BR's heaviest, most epic moments. Simply fantastic song.
Flat Earth Society
has some of the best guitar work on the album, featuring a descending minor chord progression and a nifty solo that fits the song perfectly, with lyrics opening fire on willful ignorance. Faith Alone
is a slow BR track with very haunting chord voicings, painting a sepulchural, "churchy" mood to fit the song's subject matter perfectly. It's a bit similar to "Sanity" from No Control
, mixing minor chords with palm-muted parts to form a battle of restraint and aggression when the chorus comes in. Graffin's anti-religious lyrics are the star here, with lines like "What the world needs now/Is some answers to our problems/We can't buy more time/'Cause our tender isn't valid/If your soul needs love, you can get consoled by pity/But it looks as though faith alone won't sustain us no more." Entropy
blends a little with some other tracks on the album, but the operatic harmonies near the end as well as a nice solo make it a great track. Against The Grain
is my personal anthem and favorite, a tension-building rollercoaster featuring some simply AWESOME lyrics, a relentlessly driving pace, dynamic shifts, as well as some decidedly non
-punk guitar harmonizing and quick palm-muting slithering around each other. Jay's bass lines are also quite good in the 3rd verse and really help drive the song over the edge. Check these lyrics...
Three thousand miles of wilderness, overcome by the flow/A lonely restitution of pavement, pomp and show/I seek a thousand answers, I find but one or two/I maintain no discomfiture, my path again reneved/Against the grain/That's where I'll stay/Swimming upstream, I maintain against the grain."
There isn't really a need to go on too much more. Operation Rescue
, God Song
, 21st Century
, and Walk Away
are instant classics and the rest are equally solid, especially the saddening horn (yes, horn) line in Misery And Famine
. At no point do you feel the need to skip a track. The "filler" on this is better than many bands' best songs. It's a Bad Religion album, you know what they sound like. They've put out the same record for pretty much forever. Thank whatever deity up there that BR's same-old record is a damn good one, and this record is a perfect way to get into them if you're a new fan. Anyone who listens to music should hear this, though, and for punk rock fans this is ESSENTIAL LISTENING. Go buy it NOW.
KEY TRACKS - Modern Man, 21st Century Digital Boy, Anesthesia, Against The Grain, Turn On The Light... screw it, they're all key
Bad Religion (1990):
Greg Graffin - Vox
Brett Gurewitz - Guitar, oozin' ahhs
Greg Hetson - Guitar
Jay Bentley - Bass, oozin' ahhs
Pete Finestone - Drums