Bad Religion - True North (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Bad Religion

True North (2013)


There's a fine line between honing a very specific sound that can define a band, and creating redundant and stale music. For more than 30 years, Bad Religion have proven that age is merely a number, and relentlessly churned out legendary records. The band's latest offering True North serves as a culmination and retrospective of their storied history.

The title track starts the record with an instant melody that could never be mistaken for anyone but Bad Religion. The urgent beat converges with the soaring harmonies of the chorus, triggering memories of Recipe for Hate, credited by most as the band's best major label release. "Land of Endless Greed" continues this theme, with vocalist Greg Graffin pushing himself to deliver just the right key.

True North continuously finds Bad Religion not just accepting their past, but fully embracing it. "Nothing To Dismay" displays everything beloved about the band's sound. The marching cadence is complimented by Graffin's urgent vocal delivery of the verses, leading right into the call and answer chorus and wailing guitar solo. Aside from the production, the song could easily be mistaken for an outtake from 1989's No Control.

Many view 2002's The Process Of Belief as the band's unofficial "return." It marked not only a return to Epitaph Records, but also reintroduced founding guitarist Brett Gurewitz, whose songwriting partnership with Graffin is nothing short of legendary. True North shares a similar feeling of rejuvenation, but pulls more directly from the past in a very demonstrative manner. Both "The Island" and "Past is Dead" immediately recall memories of 1990's Against the Grain, and its follow-up Generator. "Robin Hood in Reverse" borrows from 1994's Stranger Than Fiction, with Graffin's direct social commentary and uncanny vocabulary arsenal ever present.

Scattered throughout the record are moments of new direction in sound. "Fuck You" draws more from previously existent folk influences, legitimizing a song that could easily be written off as campy purely for the title. "Dharma and the Bomb" recalls influences from the band's early days with a sinister melody reminiscent of Agent Orange or the Dead Kennedys.

True North is nothing short of a celebration of Bad Religion as a permanent fixture in music history, and maybe more importantly, a testament to a timeless history of influence and epic releases. Nothing comes off as stale or self-serving. It's easily the band's best release in the last 10 years, and with time it will garner more appreciation in the overall catalog. I don't look forward to the day Bad Religion calls it quits, but if True North is their final offering, it would unquestionably be the perfect ending.