Bad Religion True North

Bad ReligionTrue North
Another year, another Bad Religion record. Actually it's been three years since the band's last blast of melodic punk, 2010's middling The Dissent of Man. The California crew have slowed down a tad and we get a new album every three years now, instead of every two. But the band have yet to start phoning it in, a fact that gets ignored when critics inevitably dismiss whatever their latest is as "just another album." While the hardcore-tinge was long ago replaced by alt-rock chug, and True North (their 16th LP) lacks the visceral power and focused sense of purpose their trio of post-Epitaph return albums had, the band nevertheless sound unwilling to go gently into that good night. Songwriters Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz continue to rail against American institutions in a manner that belies the generic sloganeering of the L.A. hardcore scene that birthed them. Some call it thesaurus rock, but there's no denying that a track like "Robin Hood in Reverse" is a product of 2013. Gurewitz even delivers his first-ever lead vocal on "Dharma and the Bomb," a number reminiscent of the guitarist's short-lived Daredevils project. Still, Joe Barresi's too-slick production does the band few favours — how great would it be to hear a Bad Religion record under the guidance of someone like Ty Segall? So, yes, True North sounds like "just another" Bad Religion album. But after 30-plus years, how many bands can continuously produce releases as solid as this? (Epitaph)