My first impression of Bad Religion was from a significantly later record, when what they may have helped pioneer was everywhere. I thought, “Great, another skate punk band.” Sure, they’re a very literate punk band, but I’ve heard a lot of these bands and they pretty much sound the same.
But if I try to put myself back in 1988, when this particular form of punk wasn’t absolutely everywhere, hopefully I can appreciate this rather than just dismiss it. This is supposed to be their best record, after all. Shouldn’t I find something in it?
The songs are catchy enough for what they are. You can bob your head along to all of them. Sure, they blend together but none of them stick around very long.
The attraction for most people, I assume, is the lyrics. Bad Religion could be the most literate band in the history of punk music. (Certainly they’re up there.) Graffin doesn’t lecture as much as you’d expect, given his background. And he at least sort of sings about other things, occasionally. His lyrics are certainly fine. I’m too old for them to connect with me, I think, but they’re fine.
Back in 1988, melodic hardcore wasn’t so tired, as far as I know. So I shouldn’t get annoyed by how similar each song sounds. But I must say that I prefer my hardcore punk considerably louder and rawer. Still, they are competent and they are clearly good at what they do. I’d just rather listen to actual hardcore.
As clean as this is, it still isn’t as clean as this kind of music would get in the 1990s. So that’s something.
I’m going to grudgingly rate it higher than I want to, in the hope that one day I will agree that this is one of the better records of its type out there. It probably is, but I’m not sure I care.