|Category:||Review - Newspaper||Publish date:||1/18/2002|
|Source:||Orlando Sentinel, January 18, 2002, p. 10|
Pessimism is a joy With Bad Religion
by Jim Abbott
Orlando Sentinel, January 18, 2002
5 / 5
Before the Offspring put California surf punk into the mainstream, Bad Religion defined the sound with breakneck mayhem on the seminal 1980s albums How Could Hell Be Any Worse? and Suffer.
Unfortunately, the band spent much of the past decade watching less gifted imitators invade mainstream radio.
At the same time, Bad Religion endured the departure of original guitarist Brett Gurewitz to run indie-rock label Epitaph and its own unsuccessful jump to major-label Atlantic. The band's two Atlantic releases [it's three actually -ed] -- Gray Race (1996) and No Substance (1998) -- sparked little buzz.
That shouldn't be a problem with The Process of Belief, an explosive collection of no-frills punk fueled by Gurewitz' return to a band that obviously has rediscovered its identity on its original label.
Although the chemistry between Gurewitz and his former songwriting partner Greg Graffin is the obvious attraction, the addition of drummer Brooks Wackerman creates an inspired rhythm triangle with guitarists Brian Baker (formerly of Minor Threat) and Greg Hetson. [Brett also plays rhythm guitar].
Wackerman's frenetic pounding sets a manic pace in the opening "Supersonic," which might well refer to the band's tempo.
Still, anyone can play fast. Bad Religion is among the few bands that incorporate hooks that soak into your brain immediately. Layers of background harmony -- imagine the Beach Boys on speed -- and loopy call-and-response sections elevate "Supersonic" to something that speed metal can't approach.
Nor does Bad Religion ever descend into condescending pop stereotypes, a la the Offspring's "Why Don't You Get a Job." Even when the band turns the heat down on "Broken," the breezy melody takes its energy from Wackerman's backbeat and a wall of distorted guitars. There's a vaguely Oriental feel to the introduction of "Kyoto Now!," which quickly transforms to a breathless indictment of world politics and economic pressures.
"It's all about ignorance and greed and miracles for the blind," Graffin sings. "The media parade and disjointed politics, founded on petro-chemical thunder [petrochemical plunder -ed] and we're its hostages."
Elsewhere, the band adjusts its focus to look at broad issues through a personal lens. Take away the fuzzed-out guitars and the mixture of fatalism and hope in "Sorrow" and it would be fodder for a credible bluegrass song.
"Father can you hear me? How have I let you down? I curse the day that I was born and all the sorrow in this world," Graffin laments. Yet he dares to imagine a time when "there will be sorrow no more."
Invariably, Bad Religion's pessimistic themes are overshadowed by the sheer exuberance of the music. "Evangeline" cautions that "next time it could be curtains," even as the rollicking arrangement suggests otherwise.
As long as the band can make albums to rival The Process of Belief, it will be a long time before the curtain falls on the reunited Bad Religion.
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Article added: Hartbeat #10
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Review added: The Genius Of... The Process Of Belief By Bad Religion