Ah, Bad Religion. If they didn't originate the SoCal pop-punk sound, they certainly perfected it. They were flying the flag of radical politics when Zack de la Rocha was still in his Duran Duran tribute band. And they released many excellent albums in the late '80s, early '90s on their own Epitaph label, then signed with Atlantic and released three awesome, awesome albums -- Recipe for Hate, Stranger Than Fiction, and The Grey Race. All highly recommended.
But then Brett Gurewitz, their guitarist and chief songwriter, left the band to concentrate on running Epitaph, leaving Greg Graffin, their singer, to write all the songs. The result was not pretty. 1998's No Substance and 2000's The New America were not very good at all. They have always been known as a smart, literate band, but Graffin over-wrote the songs and packed them with unnecessary $5 words. I just thought they would fade into the obscurity of endless touring, like The Beach Boys after Brian Wilson left. You know the feeling -- they still sound the same, but something vital is gone.
Good news though! Brett is back with the band ... or if you prefer, the band is back together! They have been ditched from Atlantic, so no radio or MTV loving for them. The new album, The Process of Faith, roks and roolz and pleases my ears muchly though. After involking my Three Listen Rule (tm) I can happily declare Bad Religion is back and as good as ever.
If you like Blink 182, Sum 41, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit ... for heaven's sake get yer heads out of your asses, give 'em a shake, and head to your nearest CD store and buy some great catchy rock 'n roll.
This album gets a thousand snowflakes!
Past hills of chambermaids' dark bare arms and fields of muscles quilted to the bone, Right now I'm flying over, yeah right now I'm flying home.
I'll definately second this recommendation. This album just sounds like Bad Religion should sound. I haven't really liked anything they did since Gurewitz left. Personal favs on this one are "Sorrow", "Broken", and "Destined for Nothing".
I always thought the comparison to U2 wasn't so much musically (though they both play "earnest pop music") but in that both bands are from the same (broadly speaking) geographic area and are both very open about their political motivations.