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Stranger Than Fiction

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Album Review

It seems that Bad Religion's eighth LP is a rare case of selling out in reverse. Having signed to the big bad major wolf ("what big teeth you have, Grandma Atlantic"), the bandmembers seem too intent on showing their fans they're not going wimpy, so they turn their back on the advances of Generator and Recipe for Hate in order to bring back the naked aggression. Stranger Than Fiction is back to the go-for-the-jugular stuff, pretending that the wonderful modifications and variety of their recent work never existed — thus the qualms about this LP. It feels too regressive, a sort of pandering. That said, if they are going to go backwards, I for one am going with them — there is still no one better at this stuff. The opening "Incomplete" features some of the most intense verse singing by the ever-soaring Greg Graffin, behind a muscular, punishing sound helped by guest guitar from the MC5's Wayne Kramer. Almost as storming in the same vein are philosophical songs such as "Leave Mine to Me," "Individual," "Tiny Voices," and the powerhouse "Marked," all uptempo barnburners, pulverizing in their rapid passion. The biggest gratification, though, is that a few songs do seem more in line with the maturity of the previous two LPs. "Handshake" is the album's summit, thanks to an oven-hot chorus and an outro-coda that has to rank among their ten best moments. "Slumber" is a slower show-stopper, with a pleading barrage of harmony vocals, while the title track builds on Generator's "Atomic Garden" with an unusual Beatles/Jam singsong melody. On the negative side, "Infected" into "Television" are the two least effective songs of their 15 years, the former a third-rate "Sanity," the latter bereft of hooks. In any case, it is not to be missed and it will haunt you in your sleep.

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 their 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...
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Stranger Than Fiction, Bad Religion
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