|Category:||Review - Internet||Publish date:||9/29/2010|
|Source:||absolutepunk.net (United States)|
The Dissent Of Man
by Chris Fallon
absolutepunk.net, September 29, 2010
Greg Graffin is a smart guy. Almost too smart. Half the time, I don't know what he's talking about in his songs, although I do know it's something super intelligent and over my head. But that's fine. I can live with this inferiority complex, because when it comes to his work in Bad Religion, it's all so uniform and tight... it simply makes me feel, well, good.
Obviously I'm not a college professor nor a Cornell grad, so pardon my lack of flair. Really, the point is how smart a band like Bad Religion is, despite how casual listeners may find them to be, say, too comfortable after 30 years. Truth is, comfort is synonymous with reliability - and reliability is synonymous with adeptness. Groundbreaking? Hardly. But after this long, on your 15th full-length? There's no need to be. You can address separate issues one at a time and continue to build off what got your to album number 15 by easing into new paradigms of sound and style.
The Dissent of Man is not a celebration in angst but a melding of the ideas that have shaped our independence. Some may see this as a bit of a shift, at least in tempo, but a progression in lyrical context. Yes, this is Graffin still buttering a thick layer of anthemic pride and urging listeners to fight back without casting stones - but the album's greatest success is how it shoulders pessimism next to establishing one's own rights to fight the upheavel.
"Those were the days my friend / But I’m not talking about that at all," he sings out on thundrous opening number "The Day The Earth Stalled." With a theme of science over politics/religion, the band settles on negotiating a swift balance of distorted riffs alongside mid-tempo soldiering that shows off the relationship between Brett Gurewitz and Graffin. Using more of a folktale songwriting style, Graffin has a poetic charge to his delivery whereas Gurewitz is able to focus more on swimming in a more freelaced environment that suits his playing style. "Only Rain" and "The Devil In Stitches" keep the trademarked Bad Religion moments, but also add in a folk/country element that could not be a better tool for emphasizing the importance of Graffin's songwriting abilities (listen to the hook in "Devil" for further evidence).
The real surprise, however, is that Gurewitz is responsible for many of the slower tracks, which is a compliment to his own talents and for recognizing the strength of his vocalist. In fact, the album's biggest barnburners are courtesy of Graffin, who thrives on soapbox stature (meant in a good way, I swear). "Meeting of the Minds" and "Someone to Believe" both light the Molotov cocktail while "Cyanide" (featuring guitarwork from Mike Campbell of all people) and the jangly down-home beat of "I Won't Say It Again" detail the damage. "Cyanide" is a superior standout and "Won't Somebody" sounds lifted from a Willie Nelson record. Yet the band makes the alt-country shift work in their favor, particularly with Graffin's vocal inflection that sounds pitch-perfect for this style.
There are still plenty of old-fashioned moments here, too. "The Resist Stance" has a deep & urgent riff backing gang vocals and Graffin's megaphone invitation to "take a stance" and "Where The Fun Is" is quality mid-90's Stranger Than Fiction-esque stuff. The dual-threat of the aforementioned "Meeting of the Minds" and "Someone to Believe" are solid enough reasons as to how the band can still kick your ass around like a rag doll. "Wrong Way Kids" is standard fare for the band, without much that sets it apart aside from some harmonic dissidence, and the rhyme scheme on "Turn Your Back On Me" seems half-hearted - but minor imperfections on a fifteen-trakc road are easy to forgive. Brooks Wackerman continues to impress by contributing a great depth to the spine of these songs and Jay Bentley is the masked hero in this instance. Like a master chef, he contributes the spice and ensures the meal is not too spicy nor too bland; his rhythm is greatly admired and welcome. Brian Baker and Greg Hetson don't have a whole lot to do here, but on "Meeting of the Minds," they assist the furious riff and also seem to be having a blast on the throwback cut "Where The Fun Is."
Veterans at their craft, you can't walk into a Bad Religion album expecting worlds of change. That wouldn't be the same band - plus, they already did that on their second album. What is nice to see here is that the band understands and is confident in what makes them Bad Religion. They're still able to make a fist, get you to flinch and also coincide that with mid-tempo material that allows individual achievements to come to light. For longtime fans of the band, this might be the best album they've written in well over a decade. Certainly, this is the band's greatest overall work since Recipe For Hate. It's tightly condensed, compellingly charming and whipsmart storytelling.
You might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you'll enjoy seeing that same trick over and over if the dog is really good at it.
Lasting Value: 8.5
Reviewer Tilt: 9
Final Verdict: 86 %
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Article image(s) added: Metal Hammer February 2002