FDF Volume 3 Issue 268 - Bad Religion - Stranger than Fiction
Album – Stranger than Fiction
Artist – Bad Religion
Key Players - Jay Bentley – bass and backing vocals. Greg Graffin – lead vocals. Brett Gurewitz – guitar and backing vocals. Greg Hetson – guitar. Bobby Schayer – drums and percussion.
Produced By – Andy Wallace and Bad Religion
Release Date – September 6, 1994
What caused me to blow off the dust? - Honestly not sure. Stare at the cd rack every now and then and it comes to you I guess.
Overview – This is the 8th full length studio album from Los Angeles, California band “Bad Religion”.
Formed in 1979 the band blends punk rock but uses multiple vocal harmonies not common within the genre. The socially responsible band would write, record and tour before having slight commercial success when they jumped to a major label. This album would be their highest charting (#87) and would be certified “Gold” (500K sold) by 1998. Gurewitz, one of the founders of the band also founded and owns the record label Epitaph Records, left the band soon after this record citing the label needed more of his time. He has since rejoined the band, which has remained largely intact after all these years. They have sold over 5 million albums worldwide and the album was re-issued in 2009 to coincide with the album's 15th anniversary.
FDF Comments (aka the songs) – We are in and out of this15 track album in a breakneck 38:26. The full band opens up as “Incomplete” gets rolling. The lead guitar comes from guest Wayne Kramer (MC5). Graffin is quick to the punch and the bass of Bentley is right up on the mix. The chorus finds that great multilayer harmony which is really refreshing. The full band just is on a roll and sounds to be having a lot of fun. Hetson, Gurewitz give even more of the guitar wall and Schayer keeps the timing spot on. Before the second chorus Bentley seems to take off and then steps aside for Kramer's solo. A bit over two minutes is the norm and we are right back at it on “Leave Mine to Me”. Here the drums from Schayer are really punched up. He fires along with Gurewitz and Bentley before Graffin begins to sing. The band does a solid job of mixing up the break downs and time signatures which is great. The “big” single (for me at least) comes in the frantic “Stranger than Fiction”. Graffin pushes himself right along as Schayer seems to find a very comfortable place on the snare. The guitars are kept to big the riffs and again we get the nice harmonies (for a punk rock song) on the chorus. Coming out of the second verse the band shifts gears and has Schayer takes the lead but Bentley has some big bass fills as the guitars all swell and we get another great attack of the chorus and it wraps up. Stand out track. The pace is really up as “Tiny Voices” takes off. The guitars from Gurewitz and Hetson battle while Schayer continues to attack his kit. Graffin has that perfect “punk rock” voice. Just the great blend of range with a gruff sound that gives it that even more urgent feel. This is another good example of the bands strong harmonies on the chorus. “The Handshake” has the dual guitar attack before Bentley and Schayer join. Graffin is focused on the lyrics and the guys are always eager to help on the backing vocals. Gurewitz takes the first lengthy guitar solo, but it is hardly 20 seconds long, but its a guitar solo none the less. The band comes back around and the song wraps up. Schayer is quick on the kit as “Better off Dead” starts. Graffin is still “urgent” but seems a little more hushed, or as hushed as you can be in a punk rock song. Clocking in at 4:08 the track “Infected” is the longest track on the record by over a minute (or very close to). The single buzzy guitar intro is met with a second and then Bentley and Schayer come in. Hetson and Gurewitz seem to know each other very well on the record and never seem to step on each other. One takes the choppy attack and the other gives the chords. Graffin begins to sing and the track is a little “mellow” for the feel of the record, but the structure and just presentation of the track are solid. Showcasing the band is able to do far more than one might expect. Tim Armstrong (Rancid) sings the lead vocals on “Television” The song was co-written by Concrete Blonde's Johnette Napolitano and Gurewitz. The track is a punk rock attack on the ears, this is fast and furious. “Individual” follows suit, with the breakneck beat dropped by Schayer. Hetson and Gurewitz continue to shine, but Bentley seems too hushed on this track. All that aside, it moves right along. It sounds a bit like and extension as “Hooray for Me” just comes right out at the listener. The listener will be exhausted just listening to the tempo that Schayer puts down. The guitars and bass are right there, really getting the listener to move along. Bentley has that nice punk rock bass “ring” you get from time to time and Graffin sings at a machine gun pace. “Slumber” opens a far slower than any tracks. After the first verse is sung the bass and drums seem to come up more, but until the chorus its pretty held back. The bass sounds great on the track and Schayer seems okay with sharing being the key instrument during the passes on the verses. There is another short guitar solo on this track as well. We get right back to the punk rock urgency as “Marked” goes. On this track Jim Lindberg of Pennywise helps out on backing vocals. By this point we get what the band can do, and they do it well. This is another example. We hardly feel in to that song when it ends and “Inner Logic” takes off. Bentley is a bit more of the leader on this along with Schayer. Gurewitz and Hetson come in at the right time and we get another great set of harmonies on the chorus. “What It Is” feels similar to the prior track with the solid bass and drum work. Closing out the album is “21st Century (Digital Boy) a slow builder of a track. Schayer attacks his cymbals and tom toms. Bentley gives big single bass notes as Gurewitz and Hetson also find their place. The chorus is a solid example yet again of how they handle the vocals. A very solid album closer.
Where are they now? Graffin, Gurewitz, Bentley and Henson are still with the band. In 2011 the band stated they'd record a new record for 2012 but have hinted that this will be their final album.
FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) – Surprised to admit, I haven't seen them live.
FDF Overall Take - When one thinks punk rock they think 2 minute songs, with a lot of yelling and not much else. Bad Religion is just the opposite. Sure they attack it, and attack it hard, but the solid mix and harmonies of the band members are really solid. We can have a music fast, and seemingly “angry” but why not have it be a little complex and interesting. If the band is really “done” I need to get my act together and see them, and so should you. This record is easy to find and if you listened to “alternative” radio you'll know at least 2 of these tunes, and probably more.
Curious? Check out some MUSIC!
Stranger Than Fiction
Stranger than Fiction Live.
21st Century Digital Boy
Infected (Live Version)
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