Posts Tagged ‘Bad Religion’

Bad Religion Message Board Return

Saturday, May 28th, 2005

I have returned to the Bad Religion Message Board. And it is so much fun, it’s giving me gas.

Review: Bad Religion – The Empire Strikes First

Sunday, June 27th, 2004

The Good: Everything Bad Religion is known for: catchy, thoughful, fast songs, plus a little bit of musical experimentation.

The Bad: Too many tom-tom breaks in the bridges.

The Ugly: Ewww — black, white and red for the cover? Since when did Bad Religion have to knock off the White Stripes for a color scheme?

Bad Religion’s got a strike against them.That strike, of course, is the fact that they’ve been around for over two decades. With this longevity comes a stigma: of course, the old stuff is better. Ask any crusty punk who was at a show in ’88, and he’ll tell you that How Could Hell Be Any Worse was better than anything Bad Religion is putting out now.

But I say screw that. Why give a band demerits for having longevity. AC/DC’s been around forever, as well as the Rolling Stones… well, maybe they deserve a few. Anyway, Bad Religion should not be docked because they’ve been on this earth longer than I have. If a band gets docked, it should be for writing shitty songs or not showing the least bit of change.

Thankfully, Bad Religion has evolved artistically. The Empire Strikes First has its share of warp-speed songs under two minutes, but it also has a few slower number that give you a pensive respite from the breakneck tempos. The first song — if we really can call it a song — is a slow, vaugely regggae (the extra ‘g’ is for great!)-ish intro to the album’s first song proper, “Sinister Rouge.” This track demonstrates what BR does best — soaring vocal harmonies (there’s even an opera singer adding heft to them), high-octance but tasteful guitar solos, and pissed-off-but-still-melodic vocals that actually have something to say — in this case, a rant against the Catholic church, “Comin’ back for more / To even the score.”

The record maintains its pace until thingsd slow down a bit with the first single, “Los Angeles is Burning.” The single must be making some sort of impact, because my friend Patrick, who only listens to the radio, mentioned it to me. It’s catchy and in a major key, which is a rare occurance for Bad Religion. It’s also pretty straightforward for a song written by Brett. I think it’s actually about fires in Los Angeles. Anyway, I can’t help but singing along.

Next up on the list of artistic changes is rap. Yes, rap, thanks to Sage Francis, another Epitaph artist. I’m sure some punx (notice kewl ‘x’ in spelling) screamed ‘Sellouts!’ upon first hearing this, but I like it. I’m not a fan of rap, but it fits the song somehow. There’s some nice interplay between Graffin and Francis, and it shows BR branching out. Hmmm… maybe next time, an album of polka music? Anyway, the rap comes on top of a little tom-tom riff courtesy of Brooks Wackerman, which would be okay but the next song, “God’s Love,” has the same damn thing in its bridge. C’mon, guys, couldn’t you put one song in between these two?

The First really slow song is “To Another Abyss.” This song’s got some great vocal harmonies — when Greg and Brett (maybe?) sing “purity” together it gives me goosebumps. The song’s 4 minutes long, but doesn’t really drag. The only problem I have with it is that the little lead guitar line (it sounds vaugely like a slide guitar, but it’s just a ghost bend) that comes in at the end of the chorus and ends the song sounds just like the lead guitar line from “Superheroes” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Every time I hear it, I think “I’ve done a lot / God knows I’ve tried / To find the truth / I’ve even lied.” I love the way this song ends — just the fading chord with feedback rising, a little groove on the ride cymbal, and then the guitar hook — God bless it — again.

The title track is another slow one, but what a damn-catchy chorus. Like Aretha Franklin, Bad Religion knows that when you spell something out in a song (in this case, E-M-P-I-R-E), people will sing along. This song, like “Let Them Eat War,” is an attack on America’s policy in Iraq. Bad Religion rarely is so blatant in its politics, so this is a nice change. Unfortunately, this song also has a tom-tom break in its bridge. Gettin’ a little old, guys. The album ends strongly, with a slow, introspective song that has some neat poetic devices (one rhyme sound, “said”), some poetry that I’m guessing was written by Gurewitz (“Beyond Electric Dreams”), which dissolves into feedback and overlapping-vocal madness, and the last song — “Live Again (The Fall of Man)”, which is a great way to end the record — Fast, bouncy, catchy, and with a serious message — if you could give it all up for heaven, would you?

Except for my stupid little quibbles, this is a great album. I think it’s better than pretty much anything they’ve put out. True, it’s not montonously fast and there are some artistic experiments, but they lean in the right direction. This is one of Bad Religion’s top two or three records ever.