I don’t mean to be so brief with a band that’s had such a profound impact on me, but that’s life, and to be fair you don’t need me to tell you how great Bad Religion is. But where we might differ is in how great Stranger Than Fiction is, considering it’s their first album for a major label (Atlantic) after moving off of Epitaph. It was also coincidentally their last album with Brett Gurewitz, who happens to be the founder of Epitaph. All this drama wonderfully comes together in one of the band’s most cohesive and catchy that still manages to be everything you’d want from a Bad Religion album.
I don’t to totally chalk up Bad Religion’s success to Gurewitz’s participating – as we’ll see later there are definite uneven moments when he returned seven years later, just as there are some great moments on the albums he’s not a part of. But there’s a mastery and magic to Stranger Than Fiction that feels like a culmination, from the killer catchy riffs of opener “Incomplete” to the nasty harmonic and twists to “Leave Mine to Me.” The title track is so ridiculously catchy you’re barely aware of how silly the lyrics are, which is entirely the point when the song is about how life can out-weird anything you can come up with.
Are there some off tracks? Yeah, I can do without “The Handshake” or “Slumber” – they’re not bad, just not up to the caliber of sonic missiles like “Better Off Dead” and “Infected.” I admit I can’t even remember how “Marked” goes and I just heard it, but that’s also my brain is still bouncing to the joyous anarchy of “Television.”
And then there is of course the closer, the re-recorded version of “21st Century Digital Boy” which for my money out-does the original from Against The Grain in every way. Feel free to disagree!