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Being themselves as sensitive to the social and political mood as ever, the now cemented latter-day lineup of Bad Religion have placed timely concerns about greed and irrationality at the centre of their lens once again, on an album which consciously leans back to the rapid-fire hardcore records they made in the late 1980s.
It can be said that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance, or perhaps even a fluke, for a band to release an album that completely changed the genre it was born out of. To release two albums of that quality and influence can safely be called a staggering achievement rarely, if ever, seen in music today. But releasing three can safely put you into “legendary” status. And somehow, Bad Religion did precisely that with 1988’s Suffer, 1989’s No Control, and this, 1990’s Against The Grain – jokingly referred to by the band as “our Holy Trinity”.
Musically, it’s quite a fine album. It’s very melodic punk rock, and while the song-writing still is missing something (that something being Gurewitz), it was more intelligent and thought provoking than the last album.
Specifically, its raw punk anger is a gut-and-brain-level response to the Gulf War, the nuclear arms race, environmental destruction, overpopulation, and so on. In one of Generator’s most caustic moments, “Chimaera”, they go so far as to cast humanity as an out-of-control monster, at the same time directing barbs at those who look to a supposed supreme being for the answer. In that way they implicitly call for humanity to fix itself, a mark of the call for action that lies behind every Bad Religion song, even the most pessimistic ones.
The excellent classic punk band known as Bad Religion was started in the year 1980 in San Fernando Valley of LA. Greg Graffin and fellow band members didn’t fit in with everything going on back in that time and place, and they decided to make music to show it. Their first EP was made in 1980, and at that time the band started their own record label known as Epitaph.
Bad Religion has done it again. With an excessive amount of members. With an ill-received single. And with twelve stylistically similar albums already under their belt. Bad Religion has redefined themselves once again with a crushing wall of sound approach incorporated into the band’s legendary command of precision skatepunk.
Everything starts with vocalist (and life science PhD) Greg Graffin and his deep, nearly sage-like voice. His singing is what it is on this album, decent, but the strong lyrics are present. Among his best moments are the thirty seconds of “The Handshake” where his voice chants “fend for yourself and shun the handshake” a powerful line topping off an already spectacular song. His voice is complemented by the appearance of punk gurus Tim Armstrong of Rancid and Jim Lindberg of Pennywise on the songs “Television” and “Marked” respectively.
Many of you starting to read this are wondering exactly what this album is. Well, to begin, this is the best live album ever created. Period. As hard as it is for me, I hold it in higher regards than the Face to Face live album, Social D’s “Live at the Roxy”, even the Descendents “Liveage”. Yes, the Descendents.
‘Tested’ is a true experimentation in the concept of live albums. As opposed to one show, where the band may be acting, feeling, or playing a certain way, Bad Religion offers a large sample of the 1996 European tour. Sixty shows in 57 cities were recorded and narrowed down to create this incredible album.
Bad Religion first tackled Christmas covers at KROQ’s Acoustic Christmas event in 1993. Their rousing rendition of “Silent Night” was the hit of the evening and is still heavily played on the station during the holidays.
This year, the group took to the studio to record other classics including “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” They got the full punk rock, Bad Religion treatment.
This is a landmark album for Bad Religion. If you heard this when It first came out like I did, chances are you were really suprised.
The sound of this album changed slightly. Which took some getting used to, Not quite as fast paced as all their previous albums….and they also incorporated some sounds you never heard from these guys before.