Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bad Religion's Generator is 20 today.

Bad Religion's sixth album (fifth if you're not counting Into the Unknown, as many do) Generator came out twenty years ago today. I was only three and a half, and the only thing I remember about 1992 was the theatrical release of Aladdin, so I can't really go on and on about how important this album was to me that year. I also didn't begin to listen to Bad Religion until I was halfway through college- something that is entirely my fault and I regret all the time. That said, I still have a lot of good memories regarding Generator, most of them relating to sitting underneath a tree and reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road. And much like how The Road is a bleak story, Generator has a dark tone that the band had never captured before, and had yet to record anything else like it; it is unique in that it sounds like no other Bad Religion album but it is still widely accepted by fans.

One of the most noticeable things about Generator is that it is a very guitar-driven album. Wild solos and fills run throughout the songs- an uncommon practice in the punk and hardcore circles- and many times the guitar will take precedence over the vocals, cutting in after only a single verse as opposed to waiting until the bridge. I'm aware that this might be common stuff in other genres, but this kind of experimentation just didn't happen with punk bands. (Obviously it did, but unless they were on Dischord it was just kind of weird).

The song writing on Generator also shows a shift in the band's style. Some songs, like No Direction or Only Entertainment, follow the usual Bad Religion style if you overlook the fact that they were twice as long as most of Bad Religion's other songs at the time (their three previous albums had a song length average of roughly one minute and forty seconds). But the real gems on this album are the songs that experiment with the odd shifts in tempo or time signature. Generator, Two Babies in the Dark, and Atomic Garden are all examples of the band trying out some weird new stuff and those three songs are some of my favorite tracks on the album. Two Babies in the Dark also stands out lyrically, making an excellent melody out of run-on fragments and homophones long before Kanye was telling the world he was a master wordsmith. Meanwhile, songs like Heaven Is Falling, a scathing attack on the Bush Sr. Administration, showed that the band hadn't lost their political edge no matter how much the music might have changed. (Heaven Is Falling also got a somewhat timely update by the Ataris during the Bush Jr. Administration on the Rock Against Bush compilations).

Sometimes I think it's hard to talk about an album that wasn't a part of my life during my formative years. It's like finally getting to see a movie that everyone raved about years ago and whenever you want to talk about how great it was, most people just respond with "Yeah, I've already known that for ages." Trying to talk about Generator is kind of like that, especially now that it's twenty years old. If, for whatever reason, you've stumbled your way here and you don't already listen to Bad Religion and love this album, I urge you to give it a listen (or another one if you've already tried). Generator is a one of a kind release for the band- it lacks the overall appearance of a hardcore album like their earlier work, but it also lacks the more standard "rock" sound that they developed on albums such as Recipe for Hate or Stranger Than Fiction, all while avoiding being disowned by the band (or their fans) like Into the Unknown was. So in that aspect, Generator is at least Bad Religion's most interesting album.

For your enjoyment, I have included some songs to hopefully encourage you to check out the album in full.


No Direction:
Two Babies in the Dark:

Heaven Is Falling:

Atomic Garden:

It's true that "no Bad Religion song can make your life complete." Although I think that having a collection of them, like on Generator, certainly helps.

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