Yeah, yeah, we know. This is Metal Curse and they’re a Punk band, not even an extreme one at that. Well, being in a Punk band for four decades is pretty fucking Metal if you ask me. And not just some shitty Punk band that won’t go away, this is Bad motherfucking Religion. The band that gave us How Could Hell Be Any Worse? and Suffer. The band I cut my Punk teeth on as a teen in the early ’90s. The band that opened up new doors for me back when I thought anything lighter than Eaten Back to Life was some kind of Power-Glam. All that said, their output since 1994’s Stranger Than Fiction has been a mixed bag of hit-and-miss, and album #16 is no exception. With the No Controlesque opening title track, it becomes apparent quickly that True North should and does trump its unremarkable predecessor, 2010’s The Dissent of Man. Then again, what Bad Religion album short of The Gray Race can’t? True North tries to find the balance between the back-to-basics energy of The Empire Strikes Back and the ballad-dominated Process of Belief —two of the band’s more solid efforts in recent years— and for the most part it succeeds, just not quite on a Recipe for Hate level. The hits and filler are pretty much spread evenly, granted Bad Religion filler is considerably more engaging than the phone-in jobs of other Cali greats (yeah, NOFX, that means you, although Self Entitled was a step in the right direction). What never falters are Greg Graffin’s lyrics. Known to cure narcissism, this man’s verses have always been a beacon of light in a world full of idiots, and the current state of the US economy gives the legend no shortage of ammo (see “Robin Hood in Reverse” and “Land of Endless Greed”). Still, not even Graffin can save duds like “Past Is Dead,” “Fuck You,” “Dharma and the Bomb” (worst BR song ever?), “Hello Cruel World” (epic ballad fail), “Popular Consensus,” and “Changing Tide” from being instantly forgettable. Luckily big chorus-driven circle pit starters like “Vanity,” “In Their Hearts Is Right,” “Crisis Time,” “Dept. of False Hope,” “Nothing to Dismay,” and “My Head Is Full of Ghosts” are there to bail them out. Get it? HA! The beloved oozin’ aahs flow while a triple-guitar assault launches exploding solos on the listener like US bombs on a sovereign nation full of brown people, as Brooks Wackerman unleashes the kind of drumbeats that’ll get all those DJs skateboarding again. True North might not always be on par with past classics, but serves as a worthwhile addition to the Bad Religion dynasty.
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