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Bad Religion: Bad Religion (EP)

Bad Religion

Bad Religion
Epitaph Records, 1981

Bad Religion's self-titled debut EP is pretty much exactly what a fan of the band would expect (unlike, say, 1983's Into the Unknown): tightly-played melodic punk rock, intelligent (if, occasionally gratuitously abstruse) lyrics, and multi-vocal harmonies delivering sociopolitical critiques. Bad Religion is also exactly what you'd expect from a group of precocious fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds playing in a hardcore band in the early 1980s: a bunch of barely distinguishable tracks played at blazing speed and a lot of anger that seems just a little bit forced, as if they're trying to compete with older, cooler kids.

While certainly not as good as their later, more mature recordings, Bad Religion is considerably better than most of the hardcore records coming out of Southern California at the time. You can definitely hear intimations of the deep melodies and astoundingly thoughtful lyrical content of albums like Suffer and The Process of Belief on Bad Religion. It just sounds like we're listening outside the band's practice space as they're attempting to find their sound. Give 'em a few years and they'll be legendary...

No Empathy: Ben Weasel Don't Like It (EP)

Although Marc Ruvelo and crew abandoned heavy metal by the time they released their second album, Freedom of Flesh, in 1989, No Empathy never really lost the harder edge of their earlier sound. Indeed, while the Ben Weasel Don't Like It EP has all the hallmarks of a good straightforward punk record -- speed, relatively uncomplicated chord progressions, et cetera -- there are more than a handful of metal-tinged moments on the disk. Some of Ruvelo's vocals could easily be transferred to a thrashcore record without much alteration and the guitars on "Another Word for Unhappiness" do occasionally evoke images of feather-haired, spandex-clad cock rockers windmilling their way through some arena ballad, but the metalish aspects of the band are kept in check and never really approach the ostentatious posturing of some (unnamed) bands with similar tendencies.

That said, this is a good punk record. In addition to the title track and the band's cover of Bad Religion's "Chasing the Wild Goose, which appeared, respectively, as the A and B sides of the original 7" release, the Broken Rekids EP adds three solid original songs to the mix.

Track Listing:

Track 1."Ben Weasel Don't Like It." A good-natured poke at Ben Weasel's notoriously opinionated Chicago scene reports and columns for Maximunrocknroll, "Ben Weasel Don't Like It" is framed by a scene in which Marc Ruvelo asks Ben for the punk rock pseudo-curmudgeon's opinion of his band, to which Ben declares "that, uh, pretty much totally sucked." As a gimmick between friends, the voice-over works nicely and ribs both Weasel and his detractors. I mean, in my limited correspondences with Ben, he has struck me as an uncommonly kind and considerate individual, quite unlike the vitriolic nose-wrinkler some people claim his columns present him to be. "Ben Weasel Don't Like It" sets the record straight: Ben is opinionated and he has a sense of humor about it. He's as willing to criticize himself as he is to critique others. Oh, and the song fucking rocks. Easily one of the best No Empathy tracks out there.

Track 2. "Chasing the Wild Goose." The story is fairly well-known in punk circles: After the successes of their self-titled debut EP and first album, How Could Hell Be Any Worse? in 1982, Bad Religion inexplicably began writing keyboard-laden progressive rock when preparing their sophomore effort, Into The Unknown. Although the band has refused to re-release what many consider to be a disastrous punk rock faux pas, the record did make it out of the studio and into the hands of puzzled hardcore fans worldwide. After the head-scratching and eye-blinking subsided, it seems, people noticed that a few of the tracks were, ultimately, not half bad. "Chasing the Wild Goose," a tale of depression and desperation not wholly unlike some of Bad Religion's later work, is one such song and No Empathy's rendition, while slower than the rest of the EP, is a fairly catchy tune, preserving the melancholy of the original while injecting a bit of actual punk energy into the track.

Track 3. "Maps." Straight-forward poppy punk and a suitably mid-tempo bridge between "Wild Goose" and the faster fare comprising the remainder of the EP.

Track 4. "Another Word for Unhappiness." Certainly not a standout track, but replay-worthy nonetheless.

Track 5. "Veteran." Okay, this sounds like the sort of music I remember from the nineties: bouncy bass lines, buzzing guitars, and dueling vocals on the chorus. Perfect for slam dancing.

Sobriquet Grade: 82 (B-).

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