Bad Religion - Stranger Than Fiction (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Bad Religion

Stranger Than Fiction (1994)

Atlantic Records

Shame on me! SHAME! ON! ME! I completely forgot how awesome this album is. Literally all 17 songs are fantastic. Stranger Than Fiction didn't come without controversy though, because this was Bad Religion's first album on Atlantic Records, a major label. They had always been on Brett Gurewitz's Epitaph Records up until then. But leaving Epitaph and signing to a major label, typically a huge taboo in the punk rock community, did not stop the band from making arguably one of the best albums of their career. This was perfect timing for them because as most of us know, the '90s were the years when punk rock broke out and entered into the mainstream music realm. The year Stranger Than Fiction was released it even made it fairly high on the Billboard 200 (#87 at its highest point). Of course it's natural when a punk band goes to a major label like this that they would get a at least a little bit of backlash from their fans, but despite that former Epitaph peer Tim Armstrong of Rancid did some guest vocals on "Television" and Jim Lindberg did some guest vocals on "Marked." Perhaps to symbolically show support and to show that nothing has really changed with Bad Religion other than their label.

Signing to Atlantic was good, if not better for the band. They kept their sound and they kept their trademark three—part harmonies and killer melodies. And again, there is not one bad song on this album. It's incredibly easy to listen to all the way through without losing interest anywhere in between. Some of their most famous songs came from Stranger Than Fiction like the title track, "Infected" and "21st Century (Digital Boy)." It's important though (at least in my opinion) to definitely not overlook the songs "Incomplete," "Leave Mine to Me," "Tiny Voices" and "Better off Dead." The label change may have been a breath of fresh air that the band needed to improve.

In terms of influence though, Bad Religion has been around for so long that it would be hard to not be influenced by them a little bit. Especially since Stranger Than Fiction came out during those famous Epi—Fat years many melodic pop—punk/punk—influenced bands emerged soon after (i.e. New Found Glory, who are currently on Epitaph, Simple Plan, Good Charlotte, etc.). Whether those melodic punk—influenced bands were any good is very debatable though. Of course, Bad Religion was still one of the crucial bands (along with Green Day, 7 Seconds, etc.) in making it acceptable for punk bands to write songs that have more prominent melodies and harmonies. Not everything has to be like "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme" or "Chemical Warfare."

Today, Bad Religion is still back on Epitaph and after about 35 years of being a band and 20 years since Stranger Than Fiction was released, they are still going strong. They have been able to keep their sound, while still keeping it interesting, most recently with 2013's True North; an album that is easily comparable with Stranger Than Fiction, which is just another example that as long as the artist has creative control, the label that they are on doesn't matter as much. Then again, not everyone may agree with that.

Let's go back to 1994 when Bad Religion originally "sold out" and see the band play "Infected" live!