True North wears its heart and its righteous anger on its sleeve. According to the band’s lead singer Greg Graffin, the opening title track tells the story of a kid who is running away.
“He says ‘I’m out of here, I’m off to find true north.’
The album also confronts poverty, greed, ignorance and hate – a lot of material for an album with an average song length of around two minutes. Its sincerity and frankness, however, carries it.
From the outset, multiple-part vocal harmonies form a lush background for Graffin’s angry, sometimes desperate croons.
A huge guitar sound, fronted by Brett Gurewitz and his squealing pentatonic solos, underlines the words and voices like a finger jab in the rib cage.
The energy is at 11 for almost the entire album, with a tone of tense and critical anger that hearkens back to the Southern California hardcore scene that Bad Religion helped to spawn in the 1980s.
The breakneck pace roils through almost the entire length of the record, but there are moments of respite, and a few songs where crafty changes in tempo feel keep things fresh.
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“Robin Hood in Reverse” is the album’s least edgy track, based on a progression hearkening back to “Stranger Than Fiction” and conveying the same sense of sweet sadness and melancholy.
Like a dancer in a pit is soaked with other people’s sweat, the album is soaked with anger. But it is also steeped in hope.
For those seeking true north, this is a worthy offering.