In a world ruled increasingly by superstition and intolerance, Bad Religion's rousing wall-of-sound punk seems about as necessary now as ever before. It is the impassioned sound of reason, anthems of a bittersweet idealism and a guarded hope set to propulsive guitars and charging drumbeats. And while most groups with even half the artistic output have long ago morphed into stylistic self-parody, Bad Religion is currently surging forward with a renewed creative intensity. Their fourteenth album is both a nod to the band's defiant past and an undeniable step forward in the evolution of a genre they helped to define. Look for them on this summer's Warped Tour, inspiring a new generation of fans.
Bad Religion has for years been considered by new crops of listeners to be a vital band because they're such OG hardcore kingpins. And while the band's justly revered--they've managed to stay together for almost 25 years, all while getting better and growing their audience--"political punk realness" is not where their strengths lie. As to their political numbers, they were never quite able to pen the sort of personal yet timeless anthems that the Minutemen or the Ex did, while in terms of 1-2-3-4 punch, you'd get far more visceral thrills from the first Damned single. Of course, Southern California punk bands injected bushels of melody and hooks into their songs, and B.R. added elements of metal and even psychedelia to their own taut tunes. Their fourteenth album to date, New Maps
is a terrific sounding record; at least two-thirds of it begs many repeated listens. The album's second single, "Heroes and Martyrs," is exactly what the band does best. A tightly-coiled and super revved-up anthem, it pits the energy and fast Barre chord sound of the greatest hardcore with a delicious, poppy production and doubled-up backing vocals that brings to mind Queen (or at least Queens of the Stone Age), in the very best way. --Mike McGonigal