Bad Religion - The Gray Race (Cover Artwork)

Bad Religion

The Gray Race (1996)


//note: I'm not going to compare this to any other band or song, although I understand that would give a frame of reference to people who aren't familiar with this album, I don't think it's fair to do that. Rather, I'm going to try to give my opinion from the perspective of how I feel listening to this album. So, keep that in mind when reading this.

Bad Religion was just coming off their best selling record and were at a crossroads. They had sold more albums than they had ever sold before, but they have sparked a mild hatred from some punk circles (like they did with "Into the Unknown) and also had to suffer the loss of half of their songwriting (maybe even the better half). Should they make a record similar to Stranger than Fiction or should they go another route. I think the choice was made for them with the addition of Brian Baker (of Minor Threat fame).

I'd like to point out that this is my favorite post-Gurewitz albums and maybe one of my favorite albums period; however, I rarely listen to it all the way through. It seems like Graffin took his clinical approach to life and applied it to this record. This album is harsh, cold, and distant, almost as if Graffin and co. are watching the world from a lab somewhere. Studying people and attempting to make sense of it. The production on this album (one of my favorite jobs on a BR album) works well with this approach and makes this one of BR's more powerful releases. While lacking in punk fury, it makes up for it with simple detachment and disappointment.

Here are a few of the highlights numbered by the track on which they appear.

1) The Grey Race (Gray Race) - this is one of the best songs I've ever heard opening an album, it just seems really suited for the #1 spot on the album. It hits you real fast and gets you ready to listen to this album as a whole (unfortunately, since some of the other songs are sort of lacking, it kind of leaves you disappointed at the end).

4) Parallel - Imagine a grad student giving a very long thesis...he must constantly reinforce his point throught out the work; however, he knows it all so well that he's become a bit dispassionate about the point. The listeners to this can feel that and they all feel pity on him. This song is wonderful. (I'm not sure if that made any sense, however.)

9) Spirit Shine - If you have ever had someone who blindly tries to explain some sort of religious dogma to you, then you know how this song makes me feel. This song is catchy in its own way.

15) Cease - After the powerful opening that this album offers, it sort of drops off for a bit. However, this song (my favorite BR song ever, I think) just makes everything worthwhile. This is the only song on the record where the emotion is obvious. It is also the most effective song on it. A hopeless despair just fills me everytime I listen to it, and while it may not be the feeling I want, it's a real emotion...pure, and untainted by any sort of concerns about what punk band sold out to what major label. This song is amazing, and I recommend this entire song for this one song.

Basically, for those of you looking for a new approach to punk rock, this is great. For BR fans, this is a must have. For those looking for rage and agression or bitter angst about women, look elsewhere. This album is bare, a detached theory on people, an emotional plea made by someone who no longer feels what he is trying to express. Cold and clinical doesn't always mean 'bad.'