Bad Religion - The Empire Strikes First
Well, it's not punk, no matter what they may claim, but then, what is punk anyway? If you define it as doing exactly what you want, saying what you like and playing the music you love without giving a tinkers' cuss about what other people think, then Bad Religion are most definitely in the punk camp. Take a look at those song titles as well, there's a strong political theme there, no? It's fairly clear where their sensibilities lie and someone has been watching the news and someone has been reading Orwell. But first, the music.
This is, first and foremost, an album for those who love unreconstructed, loud guitar music played by people who live and breath for what they are doing. It's riff after riff, chorus after chorus and 40 minutes of unrelenting pounding and the louder you play it, the better it sounds. Like the sound of that? Then read on, everyone else might as well stop reading now. You know when an album finishes, and all you can do is, well, stick it on again, just once more? This is one of those albums. It's work it's way under your skin until that chord change from Los Angeles Is Burning, or that drum fill from God's Loveis stuck in your head for evermore. Incidentally, that chord change from Los Angeles Is Burning seems to have been borrowed from The Rolling Stones' Mother's Little Helper, but we digress.
Other highlights, and please bear in mind that this album is crammed full of them, include the mighty, pounding intro to The Empire Strikes First in which Greg Graffin's vocals declare "We strike first/And we're unrehearsed" accompanied by one of the strongest riffs you'll ever hear. In fact, you won't hear a better riff until the next song, Beyond Electric Dreams which contains the best riff you'll hear all year. Fast, furious and gloriously addictive and one so perfect that Metallica would kill for it. You know what that means? Yeah, it's time for that repeat button once more.
Lyrically is perhaps where the album falls down slightly. Not that these are bad lyrics, far from it, but they are so politically charged, they might well alienate some. "Our bleeding hearts burst/But even ten million souls marching in February couldn't stop the worst" declares Graffin so it's never a mystery from which end of the political spectrum Bad Religion are coming from. Whether this is a valid criticism or not is a debatable point and a matter for the listener alone, but you have to admit it is good to have a band that are clear about their beliefs. Actually, it's good to have a rock band that actually has beliefs beyond another groupie, another line of coke or a bigger limo or whatever so we should salute them for that alone.
Another highlight of the album is something you might overlook; it's Brooks Wackerman's drumming, and yes, that is his name - great, isn't it? His drumming simply never falters once throughout the album, and is filled with lovely fills, rolls and even paradiddles. It holds everything together like glue and, together with Jay Bentley's immaculate bass, provides a wonderful, solid backbone to the album. This is, after all, an album for those who like their music loud, fast and with harmonies thrown in for good measure. If that sounds like you, you won't be disappointed with it in the slightest. And have a look at the website, that you will find here.