No Control (Epitaph)
by Tim Den
After the historical landmark of Suffer, Bad Religion were pretty much on a winning streak for the next five albums. No Control (’89) was the first to arrive, further cementing the separation between what was then known as “hardcore” and what was becoming “pop punk.” With New York hardcore bands like Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All, and Gorilla Biscuits rechristianing the genre as palm mute-heavy pseudo metal mosh soundtracks, the West Coast sound that Bad Religion were spearheading was quickly being categorized as something different. The umbrella of American hardcore no longer held all the subdivisions, and the inclusion of melodies gave the SoCal sound its own identity. Without a doubt, No Control had a big hand during this splintering of the underground, continuing Bad Religion’s ubiquitous reformation of their peers.
A slightly harder album than Suffer, No Control incorporated just a tad more tempo changes, unexpected key changes, and dissonance than… well, just about any other Bad Religion album to date. Songs like “Sometimes I Feel Like” and “It Must Look Pretty Appealing” seemed to zoom left and right before abruptly ending, and songs like “I Want Something More” even had a bizarre pause in the middle. Others, such as “Henchman” and “Progress,” introduced strange-sounding riffs that somehow managed to segue smoothly into trademark Graffin/Gurewitz verses and choruses. But all was not askew: No Control‘s melodic moments have stood the test of time as some of the band’s best. “I Want to Conquer the World” is a classic, “Change of Ideas” and “Big Bang” are capable of inducing shivers with their adrenalized vocal lines, and “You” is a bitter warning shrouded in flawless word/melody play. And let’s not forget the title track: An anthem/call-to-arms of the highest caliber.
Perhaps No Control is the perfect comeback for anyone who’s ever accused Bad Religion of writing the same song over and over again. The nuisances in Graffin’s voice, dipping registers and fluttering like a bee, the placement of soaring harmonies… you’d have to be shallow (paying attention to the style instead of the composition) to not appreciate the craft at work. With every album, Bad Religion try something new in terms of songwriting. Sometimes they fail, most of the time they nail it, and time and time again, they’ve been able to write gorgeous, distorted melodic statements that continue to amaze. For anyone who still gets hung up on the form instead of the content, you’re a fucking idiot. Because none of your favorite songwriters will ever touch albums like No Control.
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