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Bad Religion | Suffer | review | punk | Lollipop

Bad Religion

Suffer (Epitaph)
Tim Den

This is the part of the story where the unbelievable happens. The plot twist. The turn of events. The cannon the plot is shot out of, never to return. 1988's Suffer was not only Bad Religion's "reunion album" (the classic line-up of vocalist Greg Graffin, guitarist/backup vocalist Mr. Brett [Gurewitz], bassist/backup vocalist Jay Bentley, drummer Pete Finestone, plus newly added guitarist Greg Hetson), it was to either to determine their return viable, or just a sham that was too late. Now, at the end of American hardcore's heyday, did the underground need Bad Religion? Suffer was going to be the answer.

And what it did was more than silence the critics and nonbelievers. It rejuvenated the dying genre, inspired anyone who came in contact with it, and forged a new SoCal sound that would shape punk for the next 15 years. Yes, Suffer laid down the quintessential "pop punk" formula: Lamblasted guitars and manic drums, yet propelled not by brute force, but with smooth, emotive vocal melodies. Harmonies, even. Sure, Descendents, Agent Orange, and 7 Seconds had all strived for the same thing years prior to Suffer, but it is here that the combination is finally perfected. And its influence was (and still is) incalculatable. It helped launch Nardcore, NOFX's change of musical styles, and make SoCal a worldwide brand name. But that's all secondary to the music. At 15 songs in under 27 minutes, not a single chord, beat, or melodic turn was wasted. From Graffin's rugged yet crystal-clear voice – by now pitch-perfect and eloquently muscular – flowed college reading-level political dissent, sociological observations, cultural dissatisfaction, all draped atop of seemingly infallible songwriting. To this writer's ears only Lennon/McCartney's creations match the material on Suffer in terms of visceral impact and melodic ingenuity. Every turn of phrase and dancing of the hooks feel as if they came from the heavens: Divinely untouchable, incomprehensibly flawless. Is it any wonder that, even today, pop punk functions on Suffer's blueprint? Fuck pop punk, judged simply as SONGS, these rank right up there with the timeless.

And this was just the tip of the iceberg. For the next six years, Bad Religion could do no wrong. Album after album, song after song, they would be blessed with a supernatural power of perfection and write some of the best songs in existence.
(2798 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026)
 


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