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Against the Grain

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Album Review

The third in a flurry of releases that followed Bad Religion's 1988 reunion, Against the Grain found the band's edge honed sharper than it had been in years. Epitaph's 2004 remaster respects this. Increased clarity between mouthpiece Greg Graffin, guitarists Brett Gurewitz and Greg Hetson, and the rhythm section of Jay Bentley and Pete Finestone increases the inherent melodic tension and amplifies Graffin's righteous lyrical anger. "My path renewed/Against the grain/That's where I'll stay" — for many, Graffin's resolve over Grain's martial pace was a restatement of purpose, a refueling of belief in the punk and hardcore ethos as a new decade dawned. "21st Century (Digital Boy)" was a throaty, gritty, gang-vocal anthem that name-checked No Control and bitterly dismantled middle-class complacency in the technology era. One of Graffin/Gurewitz's pet themes, it also guided cuts like the rapid-fire opener, "Modern Man" ("I'm a cyborg just like you"), and the acerbic anti-greed rant "Quality or Quantity." Bad Religion had always warned against the excesses of the future and the assimilation of individuality. But the gospel cut deeper with Against the Grain. Songs began in an instant, with the single crack of a snare drum signaling the beginning of another screed. The guitars came in, twining between fiery leads and urgent, sometimes hyper chording — the album seemed like a signal fire to the lost tribes of hardcore. Its best moment might be "Turn On the Light." As a thick, trademark Bad Religion melody rips in the background, Graffin spits out lyrics that define ideology with literate pacing, even as they ignite the genre's base emotions. "I'll construct a rack of tempered beams and trusses and equip it with a million tiny suns," Graffin sings. "...and I'll burn like a Roman f*cking candle."

Biography

Formed: 1980 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Out of all of the Southern Californian hardcore punk bands of the early '80s, Bad Religion stayed around the longest. For over a decade, they retained their underground credibility without turning out a series of indistinguishable records that all sound the same. Instead, the band refined its attack, adding inflections of psychedelia, heavy metal, and hard rock along the way, as well as a considerable dose of melody. Between their 1982 debut and their first major-label record, 1993's Recipe for Hate,...
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Against the Grain, Bad Religion
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