BAD RELIGION: THE GRAY RACE (1996)
1) The Gray Race; 2) Them And Us; 3) A Walk; 4) Parallel; 5) Punk Rock Song; 6) Empty Causes; 7) Nobody Listens; 8) Pity The Dead; 9) Spirit Shine; 10) The Streets Of America; 11) Ten In 2010; 12) Victory; 13) Drunk Sincerity; 14) Come Join Us; 15) Cease; 16*) Punk Rock Song (German version).
Still with Atlantic, but with some major changes in personnel: (a) this is the band's first record without Gurewitz, who left for a variety of reasons (he himself quoted the need to concentrate on managerial work at Epitaph Records, whereas Graffin would hint at increased drug use); (b) this is their first — and only — record produced by none other than Ric Ocasek of The Cars. Both of these factors could finally hint at a fresh change in the overall sound, for better or for worse. And? Take a guess?...
...you are absolutely correct, The Gray Race sounds exactly like Stranger Than Fiction. New guitarist Brian Baker, formerly of Samhain, Government Issue, Junkyard, Minor Threat, The Meatmen, Dag Nasty, Doggy Style, and probably a host of other hardcore outfits that only the most hardcore fans have heard about, is not seriously distinguishable from Brett; and as for the production, unless Ocasek saddled this band with synthesizers — which was probably out of the question — would have to remain the same anyway.
So, here is another set of mostly interchangeable and rather generic «melodic hardcore» from the world's leading combo of human rights activists who happen to like speed, distortion, rock poetry, and moralizing at the same time. At this point, their mid-tempo stuff is already close to unbearable — I have no business listening to metronomic crap like 'The Streets Of Americaʼ, no matter how anthemic Graffin always makes it sound; and, unfortunately, quite a few of the fast songs start sounding just as boring and clichéd as the slow ones — ʽDrunk Sincerityʼ, for instance, just seems like they threw on an extra drum part as an afterthought.
The lead singles were ʽA Walkʼ, which is not a bad song (at least there is a nice, tense buildup from verse to chorus, as the rising bassline takes your spirit higher); and ʽPunk Rock Songʼ, which is just too clean, poppy, and politically correct to merit the title — yes, it is a punk rock song in general form and structure, but there is nothing in the world to justify it as an exemplary punk rock song, which it isn't, and re-recording it in German (this extra version is appended as a bonus track) does not help much to elevate its status.
Since, other than ʽA Walkʼ, there is not a single song here that commands my attention (not even the title track this time can boast a strong hook), this is the first Bad Religion album since Into The Unknown that demands a certified thumbs down. As long as the verve and inspiration were there somehow, I could respect the style enough to acknowledge its existence. But with Gray Race, Bad Religion seem to finally cross that line — for me, at least — where «respectfully tolerable» finally morphs into «unbearably dull». For other people, that line might have come significantly earlier, or somewhat later, but it is clear that somewhere, somehow one simply has to draw that line. My tired buck, sick of recycled punk riffs and idealistic sentiments rekindled like burnt out matches, sort of stops here. And I am sure that this has even nothing to do with the departure of Gurewitz. It's just a question of time.
Check "The Gray Race" (MP3) on Amazon