Bad Religion Chase New Sound

On their 14th full-length album, Bad Religion use a new vehicle to disseminate their sociopolitical wisdom: pop music. Not that brand of pretty, marketable pop in the vein of Ricky Martin or Celine Dion, but loud, catchy, hook-filled pop music — the addictive kind that makes rock 'n' roll worth dying (and buying) for.

With vocalist Greg Graffin's anthems more accessible than ever, The New America is Bad Religion's most potent disc to date. On "A Streetkid Named Desire" (RealAudio excerpt), Graffin talks of a teen rebel who's sick of being a slacker, while guitarists Brian Baker and Greg Hetson back it up with treble-charged, punk-pop mastery, complete with an edgy guitar solo and a call-and-response chorus. A similar buzz runs through "You've Got a Chance," where Graffin sounds off with a call to arms against discrimination. "You've got a chance to confront the world today," he gruffs. "Desperate romance is the curse of castaways/ What good is skill if you don't make it to the dance/ Just fight circumstance, you've got a chance."

However, Bad Religion's new pop penchant doesn't infect all of The New America; the title track carries a solid punk punch, as does "I Love My Computer" (RealAudio excerpt). On "Believe It," Bad Religion founder and Epitaph Records honcho Brett Gurewitz makes an appearance. However, the overwhelming highlight of The New America is Bad Religion's brave dive into post-punk power pop.