Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

BAD RELIGION – True North (

By Deborah Draisin

BR was looking to go back to their roots this album. Brett Gurewitz apparently stated to Fletcher Dragge that Pennywise’s 2012 release All or Nothing inspired him to write “a sequel to No Control,” and indeed True North captures the brevity and intensity of their 1989 classic, but with all the focus and improved songwriting of their later works. All the archetypes of a good Bad Religion album (the oozin’ ah’s, Greg’s typical straight out of his lecture lyrics, and Brett’s 16 bar down to basics soloing) are in full effect here, but with a few new tricks.

Lyrically, the album hints at the disillusionment which comes with age-weariness, with lines like “The world's not my responsibility and happiness isn't there for me.” (True North) and “A measure of success is how well to forget and the past is dead.” (The Past Is Dead.) Nonetheless, the biting humor remains with song titles such as Fuck You and Dharma and the Bomb.

Graffin and Gurewitz have always traded poetry and you can see the two influences at work here as well. Graffin’s introspective vocabulary laden sarcasm and Gurewitz’ political scorn are peppered throughout: “I can penetrate your religion with a nail.” – Hello Cruel World and “When the wheel of fortune turns progressively depraved, it's the manifestation of a biospheric decay.” – Crisis Time

For my money, the most beautiful lyrical accomplishment by far is False Hope: “It crackled on the radio through bright plumes of the sun the announcer said the age of faith was dead” although Nothing to Dismay would be my pick for best overall single with its incredible lyrical construct and undeniably knee-tapping rhythm. Then again, Popular Consensus has a bit of a retro feel for me; I appreciated that direction, while My Head is Full of Ghosts encapsulates everything that makes BR BR.

This is an extremely solid album. An absolute must not only for BR fans, punk fans, but rock fans in general. Very, very, very well done.

Despite the typical deadpan humor we’ve come to expect from Graffin hinting at a retirement plan involving naval work, True North was definitely worth the wait, and I cannot wait to see it live.

By Paul Silver

The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the saying goes. And Bad Religion is not immune from this truism. Listening to True North, no one could mistake this for anyone but Bad Religion. Their sound is unmistakable, and hasn’t varied much in some 30+ years of their existence. They still play the same fast punk music, still have the same harmonized vocals, still use a lot of $5 words and inject plenty of social commentary into their songs. One song that, while still a recognizable BR song, is a little different from the rest, is the garage-surfy track, “Dharma and the Bomb.” “Hello Cruel World” is a little different, too, being the closest thing you’ll ever get to a ballad from these guys. “Vanity” is the fastest, shortest song on the album, clocking in at a mere 1:02, harkening back the most to BR of the earliest days. On the plus side, BR have spent many years honing their skills, and skilled they are. The music is tight and concise; the song writing is top notch. If you’re a fan or if you’re new to the band, definitely buy this ASAP. On the minus side, though, it really is more of the same. The band experienced a great growth in their sound in their early years, as most great bands do. But then they seem to have gotten stuck in a single sound back in the 80s. BR are trying to carefully walk the line between a defined sound and stagnation. It’s up to you to decide which side of the line they’re on.

by Rich Quinlan

The first aspect of True North that jumps out at the listener is how, after sixteen records, Bad Religion is able to produce a new album with sixteen quality songs on it. This type of proliferation is staggering, but all the more impressive is the youthful energy with which every song is delivered. This record is a return to a more “classical” style of Bad Religion - the playing is passionate and relentless, with the band’s trademark intelligence. The political acumen is evident throughout the record, but “Land of Endless Greed” and “Political Consensus” are among the more perceptive found here. The latter plays with language in a manner reminiscent of both the Bush and Obama administrations, mirroring the frustration of so many Americans who no longer see leaders who engage in public service as a noble calling but rather as a means to serve their own self-congratulatory ends. The thematic image of “true north”, the idea of looking for truth and reason is a powerful one for the times in which we live, and even the speed and blunt impact of the songs encapsulates what has become an America in which the pace of life is faster and the realities are darker. “Fuck You” is obviously the great sing along anthem of the album, but it is not impractical, adolescent rage channeled through men in their forties; instead it summarizes a sense of loss and utter frustration. When there is nothing left, all one can say is “fuck you”… and Greg Graffin is the perfect man to deliver this sentiment. For those of us old enough to appreciate the significance of Bad Religion, True North is a treasure - a lightning fast, pure punk record that snarls and spits like an animal half its age. “Vanity” may only barely crawl past the one minute mark but leaves a bruise that will be with you for days, while “Dept. of False Hope” and “Nothing to Dismay” feature soaring guitar work and pointed lyrics. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the rugged, heavy “Dharma and the Bomb”, a swaggering fist fight set to music with rousing backing vocals behind Brett Gurewitz; for the first time in this band’s illustrious career, Brett steps to the front and the experiment works flawlessly. For all the kids who are just figuring out their first chords, put down whatever band is currently eliciting the biggest trend on twitter, put this on, and learn from the masters. is an independently published music fanzine covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming bands and a resource for all those interested in rock and roll.

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