BAD RELIGION: THE PROCESS OF BELIEF (2002)
1) Supersonic; 2) Prove It; 3) Can't Stop It; 4) Broken; 5) Destined For Nothing; 6) Materialist; 7) Kyoto Now; 8) Sorrow; 9) Epiphany; 10) Evangeline; 11) The Defense; 12) The Lie; 13) You Don't Belong; 14) Bored And Extremely Dangerous; 15*) Shattered Faith.
No more Todd Rundgren, but a whole lot more Brett Gurewitz, back full time not only as guitar player, but also as one of the two chief songwriters — although, frankly speaking, decades of living either under or in the shadow of the Bad Religion banner has pretty much neutralized the styles of the two: I am not strong enough to easily discern between Brett's and Greg's signatures. Lyrics-wise, Graffin tends to be more issue-specific than Gurewitz and more prominently show off his educated intellectualism in his radicalism, but musically, these melodies are almost totally interchangeable between brothers-in-arms.
Anyway, the reunion, the sacking of Rundgren, and the label move from Atlantic to Epitaph resulted in some predictable nano-changes. The ensuing album is a little less pop, a little faster, and a little crunchier in terms of guitar tones. Select opinions — and with each passing year, opinions on Bad Religion's new albums become more and more «select» — suggested that here was a deliberate move in the backwards direction of Suffer. Who can really tell without a microscope? All I know is, the production still sounds 2002 rather than 1988, with the guitars all muffled rather than «trebly», and what other difference could there be?
As usual, let us talk in terms of singles. ʽSorrowʼ managed to become a minor hit, but the only interesting thing about it is that it starts out as a reggae number — the band's first foray into the genre thus far — before quickly shifting gears and launching into the usual «folk-punk» mode à la «Woody Guthrie goes hardcore». ʽBrokenʼ is a tune about human relationship between actual humans (no shit!) that switches to near-complete acoustic backing for the verses — another first? Not too memorable otherwise. ʽSupersonicʼ is classic quintessential Bad Religion: as fast as the title suggests, energetic, and kinda meaningless: "I gotta go faster, keep up the pace / Just to stay in the human race" — is that why they keep on releasing a new album every two years?
Best of the bunch is probably ʽThe Defenseʼ, for which the band cooked up a little atmosphere: backward guitars, Mid-Eastern / symph-metal chord changes (well, maybe not quite), a far more tricky than usual vocal architectonic structure, and a suitably apocalyptic set of lyrics. Without overrating its complexity or effectiveness, I could safely say, at the very least, that it is just a good song, and that it stands out on its own — something that you very, very rarely get on any given BR album (I mean, unless you are a religiously devoted fan, how many different BR songs can you actually single out from the rest and remember as individual entities?).
Curiously, all four singles were credited to Gurewitz — maybe in a fit of gratitude on Graffin's part. In fact, the songwriting is evenly split in half, but out of Graffin's material, I could only say something about ʽBored And Extremely Dangerousʼ ("With nothing better to do / I woefully conclude / To take it out on you" — aw come now, Greg, you have been taking it out on us for twenty years now), which has a few seconds of «non-music sounds» interrupting the flow to further impress us with how bored everyone really is; and about ʽKyoto Nowʼ, which is the only straightforward pro-Protocol piece of propaganda dressed in the form of popcore that I know of (there must be others, I guess), but has no other merits to speak of.
Okay, so that's about it. Faster, louder, crunchier than they used to be over the past several years, so if you're only in it for the ass-kicking, The Process Of Belief might be right up your alley. But the usual problems won't go anywhere any time soon, either, and now that they have entered the middle age of dynamic compression, this is not going to be the Bad Religion of old. So yes, it does matter whether you are buying The Process Of Belief or Against The Grain as your introduction to America's chomskiest rock band.
Check "The Process Of Belief" (MP3) on Amazon