Stranger than Fiction – Bad Religion

BadReligionStrangerThanFictionRelease Year: 1994

Rating: 8/10

Bad Religion are a legendary punk band with a socially conscious mindset. They’ve been making music since the ’80s, but it was their 1994 album that broke them through the mainstream. When it was released, it was named one of the best records of the year and it’s easy to see why. This is probably their most accessible LP that has some of their biggest hits. Of course the songs deal with issues plaguing the world, but the witty lyrics and energetic music will get you hooked.

It’s no secret that Bad Religion are a political band. Whereas other groups seem like they’re forcing a message down your throat, these guys present several issues and make the listener think about them instead. The energetic pace of “Leave Mine to Me” catches your attention, but with lyrics that touch on problems of the world and how people blind themselves to them will get you thinking. “Stranger than Fiction” paints several bleak stories about families who can’t even afford food to eat as Greg Graffin sings “Sometimes truth/is stranger than fiction.” “Tiny Voices” starts out with loud, fast music that comes rushing at you. It almost makes you jump out of your seat, but the message of people in society who rarely get their voices heard is loud and clear.

The catchiest song on the album has to be “Infected.” Everything about this track is so satisfying from the chugging guitars to Graffin’s gruff vocals. Many might remember the single from the first installment of Guitar Hero (when people still played those games). When you get to the hook of “You and me, have a disease/you affect me, you infect me” you can’t help but shout out the words. The easiest interpretation of the song is about a bad, poisonous relationship, but it’s one of those songs where it could be about anything. Another catchy track is “21st Century (Digital Boy).” This was actually first released on their 1990 album Against the Grain, but was re-recorded years later. This rejection of consumerism and criticism of those who get so wrapped up in their gadgets that they can’t even read, eerily rings true today, especially with the advent of social media. Since these songs have great hooks, it ensures listeners will remember their message.

Even though “Slumber” sounds really nice, it’s actually a bleak track. Here, Graffin sounds like he’s addressing someone who thinks their life is meaningless. He reassures them by saying we’re all going to die soon, so just stick with it and make the best of it. It’s definitely one of those meanings you don’t notice right away. The band talks about TV as a drug on the simply named “Television,” while on “Individual” they describe a shortage of people who stand out in the world. “The Handshake” has a great message about why unity is needed in the world. It also makes you think about handshakes in a different way: “handshakes are nothing but a subtle “fuck you”/contracts determine the best friendships.” The music for most of the songs here is brash, loud, and fast, in other words classic punk rock. A lot of the time it’s what pulls you into the track before you start taking apart the lyrics. It shows that though the band has evolved, they’ve never had to comprise their message.

Overall, the album gets 8/10. Bad Religion have a lot of great albums under their belts, but this is one of their finest. Though their socially conscious messages of consumerism, the downtrodden, and the dishonesty of the government are strong and clear, a lot of the songs manage to be catchy and memorable. This makes it their most accessible album and the best one to start with if you want to get into the band. Bad Religion is one of the best and long lasting punk bands around. Albums like this, along with their later material, show they only get better with age.

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