It’s an old joke, one enduring punk bands like Bad Religion have heard more often than others, in other genres: Have they put out their 18th album, or their one album for the 18th time? Featuring 16 concise, powerful anthems clocking in at just 35 minutes total, an argument could be made that yeah, this Bad Religion album isn’t a whole hell of a lot different than any other Bad Religion album.
And what, exactly, is wrong with that? The preeminent SoCal sociopunk act long ago perfected its compelling blasts of melodic, eloquently expressed anger. And the title track, “Robin Hood in Reverse,” “Fuck You,” “Vanity” and “My Head Is Full of Ghosts” rank among its best, precisely because they stick to a formula Bad Religion has refined to the point that it both personifies the group and needs no further improvement: tight, intelligent, all-out assaults that grab the brain with both harmonies and ideas. As with other Bad Religion records, True North contains a couple of slight departures from the blueprint; they work nicely as attention-resetting diversions, particularly the back-to-back L.A.-punkwave of “Dharma and The Bomb” and chugging, moody riffage of “Hello Cruel World.”
There are a few sonic surprises that serve to give True North a bit of its own aural character, like the somewhat cheesy chorus of “In Their Hearts is Right,” or the coolly metallic guitar intro and pure-yet-pummelling pop of “Crisis Time.” But all True North really is, is a great Bad Religion record. And since no longtime fan is ever going to call a new Bad Religion record the best Bad Religion record, is there really anything more they could, or should, ask for?
4 out of 5 Stars
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