BAD RELIGION: AGAINST THE GRAIN (1990)
1) Modern Man; 2) Turn On The Light; 3) Get Off; 4) Blenderhead; 5) The Positive Aspect Of Negative Thinking; 6) Anesthesia; 7) Flat Earth Society; 8) Faith Alone; 9) Entropy; 10) Against The Grain; 11) Operation Rescue; 12) God Song; 13) 21st Century (Digital Boy); 14) Misery And Famine; 15) Unacceptable; 16) Quality Or Quantity; 17) Walk Away.
The last album in Bad Religion's classic trilogy — for some fans, the best, and for some the worst of the lot, although, personally, the only big difference that I can see is that the guitar solos are back, in a big, easily noticeable way. More than ever before, the band now sounds like a slightly «cleaner» version of Mötörhead — «cleaner» only because Jay Bentley is just a bass player, with no ambitions of turning his instrument into Hell's own jackhammer like Lemmy does. In all other respects now, this goes beyond a simplistic headbanger's dream and heads for the pleasure centers of the raving fan of the air guitar.
The only other flash of individuality is that this is the album that has ʽ21st Century (Digital Boy)ʼ on it. Slower than the rest, with more overtly melodic vocals and a downright «poppy», sing-along chorus, it stirs some fans the wrong way — especially since it has gone on to become Bad Religion's most famous number, despite not being ideally typical of their sound (sort of like Blondie with ʽHeart Of Glassʼ, which still makes many people erroneously remember them as a disco band). Still, the riffs are anything but pop, and the chorus is not just simplistically catchy, but rings out loud and proud with Bad Religion's usual spirit.
Besides, goddammit, those catchy lyrics are wond'rously prophetic: "'Cause I'm a 21st century digital boy / I don't know how to live but I got a lot of toys / My daddy's a lazy middle class intellectual / My mommy's on valium, so ineffectual" may have already been partially true in 1990, when it was written, but now that the 21st century is finally here, the song is ten times as relevant as it used to be. The epitome of irony is that, during the fade-out, Graffin hums a cross-reference from King Crimson's ʽ21st Century Schizoid Manʼ — "cat's food, iron claw, neuro-surgeons screamed for more, innocents raped with napalm fire" — perhaps hinting at just how silly these visions of World War III, nuclear apocalypses, ultra-fascist dictatures etc. have turned out to be next to the real danger to society, eh?..
Of the other songs, which mostly just soldier on and on in nearly identical uniforms, the title track, with its shrill seven-note riff and easily imprintable sloganeering ("against the grain, that's where I'll stay") is a clear standout, as is ʽModern Manʼ (who happens to be a "pathetic example of earth's organic heritage", and try singing that in two and a half seconds without losing the message), and ʽThe Positive Aspect Of Negative Thinkingʼ — typing in its title takes almost as much time for the slow-moving typist as it runs (0:57), but it still manages to incorporate a «boogie» and a «grindcore» section and a large political, philosophical, and even linguistic ("syntactic is our elegance"?) manifesto.
The whole package is longer than No Control (seventeen tracks in all), but with all these ecstatic, anger-choked guitars, tiny injections of poppiness, and even cleverer slogans than before, may be even easier to tolerate and assimilate for the non-hardcore customer in the hardcore store. Hence, another thumbs up — yes, there would be a moment when Graffin and co. would finally start a downhill slide, but Against The Grain still finds them dashing along a straight line.
Check "Against The Grain" (MP3) on Amazon