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Bad Religion – New Maps of Hell

New Maps of Hell won’t change your mind about Bad Religion whatever your current view on the band is.



It’s easy to call Bad Religion “old” … because after listening to the initial samples of the New Maps of Hell, the song “Honest Goodbye” in particular, the gut reaction is “man … these dudes sound old.” But after repeated listens, you realize that “old” isn’t quite the word you’re looking far, but rather “ripe.” Ever since Brett rejoined the ranks (and the band returned to Epitaph), they’ve been searching for their perfect tone- in both songwriting and production- that would keep the band relevant in the current music landscape while not forgetting their rather dynamic and significant past. The New Maps of Hell then, is their conquering ode to the Bad Religion history that not only holds up well alongside some of their greats, but finally marks the pinnacle of their reformed and re-energized sound.

Their initial foray back into the “indies,” 2002’s The Process of Belief and 2004’s The Empire Strikes First, were relatively benign in their composition- providing instances of flair but rarely holding out for the duration. Thankfully, they never encroached on becoming caricatures of themselves and even their most uneventful of songs proved at least worthy of a few listens. Bad Religion seemed to merely chug along (as opposed to blazing through as they once did) on their most recent records, and it really isn’t until you listen to New Maps of Hell a few times that you realize it’s the natural progression from their previous two. It still has the expected up-tempo punk numbers, “Murder” and “Requiem for Dissent,” rip through the paces as “Modern Man” and “I Want to Conquer the World” once did, it’s just that their more mid-tempo, slow-building songs have finally found comfort beside them. “Honest Goodbye” may actually turn out to be one of the finest cuts from the album- a song reminiscent of Generator’s “The Answer” in potency. The band’s noted melodic tone is ever present as well- songs like “Dearly Beloved” and “Grains of Wrath” evoke some of the band’s finest moments, while maintaining a certain urgency to them.

It is however, no secret that once you’ve heard a few Bad Religion albums, you’ve really heard them all. New Maps of Hell is certainly no musical messiah of the future- it really is the same Bad Religion album, topically and musically, since 2002, just much better. The one true throwaway track of the release is the opener “52 Seconds.” It really should be renamed “a waste of 52 seconds” as the track does nothing to further the band or the album. If the band were ever in danger of self-parody, this song would be it. But as soon as the machine gun percussions of “Heroes & Martyrs” kick in, it’s pretty sweet sailing from then on.

New Maps of Hell won’t change your mind about Bad Religion whatever your current view on the band is. While it may not be the band’s finest moment, it is easily the best album they’ve done since they left Sony, and it is clear that Bad Religion remains the shining beacon amongst the sea of noise that has become the cross-pollination of the major label world and the independent one.

(Epitaph Records)


Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper



Alice Cooper Breadcrumbs

For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.

So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.

On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.

The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.


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Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill

The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good



Goo Goo Dolls Miracle Pill

One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.

They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.

The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.

Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.

The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.

(Warner Bros.)

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