Greg Graffin - American Lesion (as American Lesion) (Cover Artwork)

Greg Graffin

American Lesion (as American Lesion) (1997)


I'm not going to lie. Bad Religion is my favorite band, and as such, I rushed out when I found out that Greg Graffin was releasing a solo record. I went into it without any prior knowledge as to what it would be like, and I'll admit I was fairly disappointed at first. But upon repeated listens, it really grew on me. This album is as, like their 1983 bomb Into The Unknown, as far away from the typical Bad Religion sound as it gets. Here we have no signs of anything punk. Most of the songs are slow to mid-tempo, and for the most part they are subdued. It is very mellow but has hints of poppiness in it. Yet, no matter how different it is from Greg Graffin's usual fare, this is a terrific album.

Greg Graffin plays all the instruments on the album. All the songs are drums/bass/guitar, but many songs add extra instrumentation such as the piano and perhaps a horn or two on songs like "Maybe She Will." "Fate's Cruel Hand" is very soft, heavy on the piano, and very somber. Other songs, like "Predicament" and "Maybe She Will" are a bit more lively, but still retain an element of somberness. These songs have bombastic choruses, and instances like these are where the album really shines. That's not to say that the softer parts are no good, it's just that the extra oomph really grabs the listener. Of particular interest is a slow piano version of "Cease," off Bad Religion's 1996 album The Grey Race. It seems even more powerful stripped down than its original electric version. Overall, the songs are quite varied, even including an almost country-esque song, "The Fault Line."

Lyrically, it's typical Greg Graffin. Songs are intelligently written, though with a lot less of his gargantuan linguistic palette that is typical of Bad Religion. At the same time, they are much more personal. "Maybe She Will" is a sad tale that tells of a breakup and all the questions and feelings of doubt that fill Greg. "When I Fail" lets Greg talk about the pressures of responsibility. "In The Mirror" is a bit of an angry song, where Greg chastises people who think they are better than the rest. The song climaxes when Greg repeats effectively, and ever so slightly humorously, "you piece of shit!" This is a rare instance of anger on an otherwise poignant and reflective album.

Melody and "oozin' ahhs" are the name of the game on all Bad Religion albums, and on American Lesion, Greg recruits his bandmates to contribute some backing vocals to many of the songs. It goes without saying that this works wonderfully, and really adds a nice touch to the songs.

So, Greg Graffin's solo album is a must have for fans of good music. Bad Religion fans might not like it, but it's on par with everything the band has released, just different in execution. Greg's smartly written songs and lyrics showcase his abilities as a songwriter outside the sphere of punk rock. This album makes for a good listen on a cold, quiet evening.