Critical Voices: Bad Religion, True North

January 24, 2013

After almost two years of rumors and speculation, Bad Religion has finally released their 16th album, True North. Since their start in 1979, the punk rock band has become known for their three-part harmonies, intellectual lyrics and religious commentary and their latest opus is no different. As in the past, they continue to use their music to tell a story. For this album, the narrative is all about finding one’s way in the world, using an internal compass to find the way to “true north.”

This album also contains as much fierce guitar and drums as the band’s past works. This is evident in the first song on the album, “True North,” that begins with a 20-second strong drum and guitar intro before lead vocalist, Greg Graffin, begins belting out the confused, raging lyrics.

Additionally, in “The Island” and “Changing Tide”—the last two songs of the album—the band uses similarly fast-paced drumming to tie the tracks together. The idea behind it is that “The Island” represents the question about whether one should continue to live by society’s rules or do what he wants, while “Changing Tide” represents Bad Religion’s answer: people should stop caring about what other people think and turn inward for direction.

“Vanity,” the shortest song on the album at a little more than a minute, is an intense and thought-provoking track, critical of society’s claim that we are all, “disgraced to face our own humanity.” However, the hard drumming, harsh guitar sound, and breakneck pace makes the words hard to hear and understand at first listen, detracting from the intended message of the song.

Even so, this album is a perfect indication that, although the band’s members may have changed over time, their sound certainly hasn’t. In each song, fans can find at least a small piece of the old school Bad Religion music they know and love, whether it be frontman Greg Graffin’s introspective vocals or guitarist Brett Gurewitz’s thrashing chords. What becomes clear by the final power chorus is that there is an undeniable connection between True North and the band’s past records, one that peels back another layer of a punk rock institution.

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