Thursday, June 17, 2004

Bad Religion Catalog Report Card (2004)

Since Mr. Brett re-joined the band on the great 'The Process of Belief' CD, I've been back on the Bad Religion bandwagon I jumped off of after 'Generator' (re-joined briefly for 'Stranger than Fiction'). With the release of 'The Empire Strikes First,' I've been on a non-stop Bad Religion kick. So, after my exhaustive recent re-delving into the Bad Religion catalog, I've come up with my current album gradings:

No Control (1989)

Historically my favorite album; this holds up just fine.

Favorite tracks: #6--"I Want to Conquer the World," #3--"No Control," #5--"Automatic Man"

Grade: A+

Against the Grain (1990)

Generally you hear that Bad Religion fans are split 50-50 on whether the best BR album is 'Against the Grain' or 'No Control.' For years, my clear favorite was 'No Control' followed by 'Suffer.' I never hated this album or anything, but I never bothered owning it. I was surprised how much more I like this now (probably because it's great and I don't know it like the back of my hand). What I also realized from listening to this particular album, is that despite the current wisdom that Matt Freeman (Rancid) is the best bass player in modern punk rock (and possibly ever), Jay Bentley is no slouch himself.

Grade: A+

Favorite Tracks: #2--"Turn on the Light," #7--"Flat Earth Society," #8--"Faith Alone," #13--"21st Century Digital Boy"

Stranger than Fiction (1994)

Bad Religion's first true major label debut, I was surprised how much I still dig this. I was seriously underwhelmed when both 'Generator' and 'Recipe for Hate' came out; neither did much for me at the time. But, when this came out, I was definitely on board, and a decade later, still am. A re-crecorded version of "21st Century Digital Boy" wasn't exactly necessary, but there's no doubt this version is a great alternate take and I enjoy both equally. UK bonus tracks are good too.

Grade: A

Favorite Tracks: #1--"Incomplete," #7--"Infected," #14--"What It Is," #2--"Leave Mine to Me"

Empire Strikes Back (2004)

Brand spankin' new.
Grade: A

Favorite Tracks: #5--"All There Is," "#6--"Los Angeles is Burning," #7--"Let Them Eat War," #11--"The Empire Strikes Back," #8--"God's Love"

Process of Belief (2002)

Mr. Brett returns, Bad Religion moves back to Epitaph. Guerewitz/Graffin writing duo reunion leads to best Bad Religion album in 8 years.
Grade: A-

Favorite Tracks: #1--"Supersonic," #2--"Prove It," #5--"Destined for Nothing"

Recipe for Hate (1993)

"American Jesus" was always among my favorite Bad Religion songs, but the rest of this album never did anything for me before. Surprised I like this a little more than I used to, even though "All Good Soldiers" almost ruins the entire album.

Grade: B-

Tracks Worth Checking: #3--"American Jesus," #2--"Kerosene, " #12--"Modern Day Catastrophists"

Suffer (1988)

I was surprised that I didn't like this album as much as I used to.

Grade: B-

Tracks I Still Dig: #13--"Do What You Want," #1--"You Are the Government," #9--"Suffer"

80-85 (aka How Could Hell Be Any Worse) (1990)

Old school punk stuff here, so it's not really comparable to later (starting with 'Suffer') Bad Religion. On its own, though, compared to contemporaries (like Minor Threat, Circle Jerks, Angry Somoans) I'd give it an A.)

Grade: C

Cool Tracks: #1--"We're Only Gonna Die," #9--"White Trash (2nd Generation)," #5--"Fuck Armaggeddon"

Generator (1992)

My least favorite of the Epitaph releases historically; I started listening to it more lately.

Grade: B-

Enjoyable Tracks: #1--"Generator," #8--"The Answer," #7--"Atomic Garden"

The Gray Race (1996)

Interestingly (to me), not as terrible as I remember. Definitely some catchy songs--esp. 'Streets of America' and 'Drunk Sincerity', but overall kinda lackluster and boring.

Grade: C-

Most Tolerable Tracks: #10--"Streets of America," #13--"Drunk Sincerity

New America (2000)

Grade: D

No Substance (1998)

Grade: D

Into the Unknown (1983)

Out-of-print, never to be re-released, disavowed prog rock lp. Not as terrible as advertised, but more a curiosity than anything else.

Grade: D+

American Lesion (1997)

Greg Graffin solo. Acoustic guitar, piano, mellow, but still w/ some trademark Graffin BR melodies. When this came out I thought it was the most pretentious piece of crap I'd heard it quite some time. Not sure my opinion has changed much.

Grade: D-

Only Track I'd Ever Bother Listening To: #1--"Opinion"

Daredevils (1996) (

Mr. Brett w/ Josh Freese (studio drummer, worked w/ everyone from the Vandals and A Perfect Circle to "Axl Rose's G'n'R" ) & Gore Verbinksi (Bad Religion video director, ex-Little Kings guitarist, now Hollywood director--The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean). Only released one pretty mediocore 2-song single.

Grade: C-

All Ages (1995)

While on Atlantic, this was Bad Religion's best of the Epitaph years. Pretty good cherry-picking as far as these things go. Pretty not bad place to get an introduction to Bad Religion. Note that it's not obvious (until you listen to it or read the liner notes) that "Do What You Want" is a live version not the album version. Some people have been known to say this is really all the Bad Religion you need.

"The Best of the Rest"

Side note: If I were to make a 'best-of' of all the best tracks of the non-A graded albums would still probably only add up to a B collection.

Bad Religion Remasters (2004)

I just ordered the remastered re-releases of 'Suffer,' 'No Control', 'Generator', and 'Against the Grain.'

UPDATE: Remastered versions sound great! Glad I picked 'em up.


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