Bad Religion’s fifth album, and generally accepted as their best, and most people’s favourite, Against the Grain, is now 20 years old. It was released November 23, 1990. And, you have heard the cliché, like a fine wine, it only gets better. Thirty five minutes of punk rock bliss.
Music as a whole has Lennon/McCartney, punk rock has Graffin/Gurewitz.
I am not the list compiling type, however of modern era (mid nineties onwards) punk rock (Punk Revival if you will) that I grew up with, even if it feels like it is becoming almost old school of sorts (I’m really only into punk rock bands from that era that are still going, or that embody the true punk rock spirit), I would rate this up there with the most influential. Everything that is great about Bad Religion is on this album, lyrically, and musically. Lyrically, the problems with modern man in “Modern Man”, the uselessness of religion in “Faith Alone”, and “God Song”, society and its issues “21st Century (Digital Boy)”, and “Quality or Quantity”, the environment in “Unacceptable”, world issues in “Misery and Famine”, and of course the great vocabulary choices, making a dictionary obligatory (preferable the OED) (“lascivious, it’s all that I can think of as I drag my feet, searching like a diogenes” to start track three, “Get Off”), all while making the listener feel smarter (something I have felt anyway), and encouraging them to think for themselves. Musically, the melodic “Against the Grain”, the sonic (and lyrically confusing) “The Positive Aspect of Negative Thinking” and both combined in “Modern Man”. And the overly catchiness of “Anesthesia” and “Flat Earth Society”.
Although I did not grow up with punk rock right away (instead Fine Young Cannibals, Midnight Oil, etc.), and when I did start getting into punk rock, Stranger than Fiction was the first Bad Religion album I got to know, it did not take too long to eventually find my way to Against the Grain. Owning the vinyl did not hurt!
With the band at the time of course was Greg Graffin (vocals) and Brett Gurewitz (guitar). Second guitarist was Greg Hetson, Jay Bentley on bass, and on his final Bad Religion album, on drums, Pete Finestone. Against the Grain being the last of three albums with this lineup, I daresay, the classic Bad Religion lineup. Suffer (1988) and No Control (1989) being the first two.
From the opening of “Modern Man”, my personal all time favourite Bad Religion song, to the closing of “Walk Away”, what we have is a bona fide punk rock classic.
Read more about Against the Grain:
Images courtesy of The BR Page.