BAD RELIGION: SUFFER (1988)
1) You Are (The Government); 2) 1000 More Fools; 3) How Much Is Enough?; 4) When?; 5) Give You Nothing; 6) Land Of Competition; 7) Forbidden Beat; 8) Best For You; 9) Suffer; 10) Delirium Of Disorder; 11) Part II (The Numbers Game); 12) What Can You Do?; 13) Do What You Want; 14) Part IV (The Index Fossil); 15) Pessimistic Lines.
Imagine Woody Guthrie taking a crash course in modern sociology, plugging in, speeding up, and throwing on some distortion, and there you have it — one of the most famous hardcore albums of 1988. For Suffer, Graffin and Gurewitz, coming back together, managed to squeeze out the last traces of the Clash and the Ramones; this here is a natural «folk-punk» album, turned into hardcore only on a formal level. Behind all the fuzz, loudness, and vocal barking really lies the equivalent of ʽThis Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Landʼ.
It is sort of fun to realize this, enough to forgive the stark, mercyless monotonousness of the fifteen songs on here — ultra-short as they may be, the riffs, tempos, and moods are so similar that there is genuinely less diversity here than on Back To The Known, which was a five-song EP, if you remember. No guitar solos, no stops and starts, only a couple songs at best that sew together faster and slower sections, and permanent bombardment by «socially relevant» lyrics that occasionally sound like a complicated philosophical thesis set to rudiments of music. Prepare yourself for embracing some bombastic minimalism.
Normally, I should be hating an album of this kind, but, surprisingly, I enjoy Suffer quite a bit. Most of the thanks go to Graffin. By now, he is able to establish just the perfect balance between punkish bark, intellectual sneer, and — most importantly — distinct enunciation, and even if his lyrics add very little to what we already know about the flaws of society, they still cut a little deeper than yer average leftist propaganda. (Besides, one thing that all the hardcore movement has always sorely needed , were good lyricists, capable of ennobling the genre). And it is mostly his singing that helps — not always, but often enough — to draw differentiating lines between songs. After a few listens, ʽ1000 More Foolsʼ, ʽGive You Nothingʼ, and the title track finally sink in as songs that actually have vocal melodies — rising and falling, falling and rising, sometimes resolved in a fascinatingly slap-in-yer-face way ("I give you me, I give you nothing!", to me, sounds like the album's absolute peak here).
The band's two guitarists, old warhorse Gurewitz and not-yet-veteran Hetson, mostly play in unison, without straying far from the base; this is probably not the easiest thing in the world to do even when you are playing these simple riffs — but at what speed! — and it gives the music a thickly scrumptuous coating, the notes under which still manage to sound distinct: you can hum these riffs quite easily (unlike, say, something by Agnostic Front) — not that you'd probably want to, but it is possible.
The record takes an almost fascist approach to «gimmickry»: the only «out-of-line» bit on the entire album is a distorted, slowed-down recording of Graffin (or somebody else) robotically intoning "delirium of disorder, delirium of disorder" at the beginning of said track. Consequently, there is no sense in extending this review — describe one song and you have betrayed 'em all — but it might be useful to stress, once again, the main reason why I am giving it a thumbs up when, normally, records of this kind get negative ratings.
Basically, Suffer is a hardcore album that respects all the formal requirements of hardcore (short length, fast tempo, distorted heavy riffage, angry anti-social mood, etc.), yet dispenses with the true spirit of hardcore — playing the whole thing out with much more precision, collectedness, melodicity, and lyrical complexity than one usually expects from the genre. Even set against How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, Suffer is the well-printed hardcover equivalent of the former's exciting, but carelessly glued paperback. Monotonous, repetitive, not at all inventive, it's far from a «masterpiece for the ages», but the limited task that it sets out to accomplish — that one it accomplishes to complete perfection. And, for that matter, where else on a hardcore album are you going to meet brave lines like "When will you try to change the logarithmic face of kissing things good-bye?" Oh, you just wouldn't believe all those tricky things we do to impregnate all those young punks' minds with the joy of mathematics...
Check "Suffer (MP3)" on Amazon