If Iggy Pop is the godfather of punk, then Bad Religion is the midwife, and the band continues to prove this with its new release, New Maps of Hell. With their high-energy, pounding sound, chockfull of rapidly thumping drums and take-no-prisoners hyper-chord changes, these aging punksters show they still know how to produce powerful, politically charged punk rock.
In fact, after I was done cleaning up the mess caused by my one-man mosh pit, and sweeping up the remains of my television, which I threw from my window during an album-induced violent fit, I had to take a nap before writing this review.
Bad Religion’s guitarist, Brett Gurewitz, explained the title of the album by stating, "We all liked the concept of maps, because we are exploring new material on this record, both musically and topically." However, the creative growth of the band might not be obvious to everyone, simply because after more than 25 years of rocking out, this album basically could have been released at any time in its career.
On the other hand--if I may be so dumb as to immediately contradict myself--a few of the tracks seem to channel the sound of Green Day’s American Idiot … although Bad Religion has clearly had a greater effect on that band than vice versa. But I will say this: The brief opening track, aptly titled "52 Seconds," has a fast, bouncy punk sound and similar chords to that of Green Day’s "Geek Stink Mouth."
"Prodigal Son" is probably the best example of this exploration of new material--it’s less hyper and a little more conservative, and winds up being one of the stronger tracks on the disc. And although I can pick out the better ones like "Prodigal Son," I’d be hard-pressed to point out the worst ones. One of the very best attributes of New Maps is its overall consistency; some tunes are better than others but none are bad.
If these veteran punksters are really a religion that’s bad, they at least have longevity on their side, this being their 14th full-length album and 20th release in total--way more albums than Jesus ever released. But I’m not ready to convert, simply because variety doesn’t seem to be their strong suit.
The best thing about New Maps of Hell is the political content found in the lyrics, something Bad Religion is famous for. In "Requiem for Dissent," Greg Graffin sings, "Oratory of hope and glory a whisper and a rhyme/An effigy, a soldier out of time/Citizen and patriot you can't be far behind/The funeral is weighting heavy on your mind." It’s not a far stretch to see a commentary on America’s blighted foreign policy.
So if you want a fast-paced punk album with something relevant to say, filled with a long list of short, in-your-face songs, then New Maps of Hell will lead you straight to heaven … and yes, I know that’s cheesy.