Bad Religion

The New America

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Todd Rundgren may seem like an odd choice of producer for Bad Religion, but as The New America illustrates, it was an inspired, even necessary, one for the veteran Californian punkers. Bad Religion painted themselves into a corner in the late '90s, adhering to the literate, hard-driving punk that marked their indie releases. That may have kept them pure, but as they grew older, they wound up repeating many of their musical ideas, while losing some of their focus. Rundgren blends his talents as a pop maverick and a vital hard rock producer on The New America, pushing Bad Religion to strengthen their melodies and hooks without losing their edge. Of course, if the record was just production, it would fall flat, but Bad Religion seems eager to embrace the challenge of making their tightest, tuneful record yet. Maybe some longtime fans will cringe at the big, powerful sound, the backing harmonies, or the catchy melodies, but these were all present on previous Bad Religion releases -- here, they're just presented with more focus. The focus, the careful production, and the group's solid, well-constructed songs result in one of the group's strongest records, while illustrating that the group can indeed grow old gracefully. And that's the most remarkable thing about The New America -- it is clearly the work of a band that's been around for nearly 20 years, but the experience hasn't worn them down, it's strengthened them. They've stayed true to their original vision while expanding its boundaries, which is something many veteran bands, regardless of genre, just can't do. Some credit may go to Rundgren, but the achievement really is Bad Religion's, not his.

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