On album number 16 Bad Religion proves to still be one of the most vital and engaging punk bands making records, with more power and relevance than band's half their age.
True North is the most vital album from Bad Religion in almost 20 years (1994's Stranger than Fiction being the last Bad Religion album I've loved start-to-finish). Everything I love about the band is represented here in force: giant melodies, relentless energy, aggressive guitars, a pummeling rhythm section, hyper-intelligent lyrics, and those well placed backing "oooh-oh" vocals (Bad Religion are second only to Naked Raygun in harnessing the power of "whoah-oh" harmonies).
This is a record that only Bad Religion could make. They don't stray far from the template they've mastered over the years, but this time everything is a bit sharper and more on point. They sound totally recharged and determined to deliver one of the strongest records of their career. Which they succeed at.
They've stripped the arrangements to the essentials and brought the song lengths back down to their more economical punk roots (only one of the 16 songs breaks the 3 minute mark). About the only frill or luxury is the triple guitar assault of Brett Gurewitz, Greg Hetson, and Brian Baker. And that guitar line is about as perfect as punk rock guitar gets. The production is clean and uncluttered, which only highlights even more how incredibly the band really is. Only Bad Religion can get away with their level of vocabulary punk intellectualism and make it sound natural.
This is an exciting and ferocious album from a band that sounds absolutely rejuvenated without stepping outside of their comfort zone.