PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Bad Religion: New Maps of Hell [Deluxe Edition]

Veteran SoCal punks supplement their last release with acoustic EP, concert DVD, and some nifty posters.


Bad Religion

New Maps of Hell [Deluxe Edition]

Label: Epitaph Records
US Release Date: 2008-07-08
UK Release Date: 2008-06-02
Amazon
iTunes

Generally, when established rock groups begin releasing deluxe editions of past albums, they start with the oldest recording in their catalog and go down the line chronologically. Not Bad Religion. These über-slick over-40 message punks chose their most recent album, 2007’s New Maps of Hell, for their inaugural deluxe repackaging. I guess they plan on working backwards. You know those 28-year-career Southern California rock sextets fronted by harmonica-playing, Wisconsin-bred Ph.D holders. They always have to go against the grain.

Hilarious puns aside, methinks this new New Maps of Hell only exists because the album didn’t do as well as Bad Religion wanted it to when it was originally released last year. So they threw in an acoustic EP, a concert DVD, some nifty posters, and tossed the son of a gun back on the sinking ship that is the physical record retail market. I can respect that kind of huckstering, but only because New Maps is a pretty sharp collection of new material worthy of attention from punks all around. The tried and true Bad Religion agenda of pointing out how humankind is being deceived amidst zippy riffing and soaring choruses of oohs and aahs (“Oozin’ ahs,” as the liner notes call them) shows few signs of stress or weakening.

It does seem, however, that lead singer Greg Graffin is running out of ways to use all those big words trapped in his large, balding cranium. In “Germs of Perfection”, it sounds like homeboy is just reading out of a thesaurus (“Lacerate, eviscerate, perforate, and mutilate!” he shouts, adding “deprecate, repudiate, ameliorate, adjudicate!” a minute later). Weak sauce, Greg. At least his distinct geeky yelp hasn’t changed much over the years. Graffin’s one of the few singers out there whose voice is unique enough to never have been accurately or successfully duplicated/imitated.

The acoustic EP is nice touch, and it serves to underscore how unnecessarily complicated the Bad Religion sound has become over the years. Nothing on the electric version of New Maps, which is chock full of the complex vocal harmonizing and wall-to-wall guitar work that has defined Bad Religion since the mid-to-late '90s, comes close to the simplistic beauty of Recipe for Hate’s “Skyscraper”, appearing here as a soft, Billy Joel-type piano number. When you’ve got a melody and imagery that strong, you don’t need ten thousand compressed instruments and an army of guys harmonizing on top of it. In this humble reviewer’s opinion, an entire acoustic album highlighting the genius of early BR might be in order.

Muddy sound mars the full concert included on the bonus DVD, but again, how could Bad Religion in person ever live up to the cosmic rock sheen heard on all their albums? At least the fellas play a nice cross section of songs from their near-three-decade career for the various snot-nosed 13 year olds and cute 20-somethings in attendance. Guitarist Brett Gurewitz wins the award for Band Member Who Looks Most Like the Coolest Dad You Know, with fellow axe man Brian Baker coming in at a very close second. The behind-the-scenes material included here is agonizingly short; the highlight of said proceedings is an impromptu a capella version of Asia’s “Heat of the Moment” sung enthusiastically by Graffin. Stirring, frightening, almost worth the price of admission.

Now there’s an idea: barbershop renditions of 1970s arena rock anthems performed with little to no practice by assorted members of Bad Religion. Perhaps that can be an extra on the deluxe version of 2004’s The Empire Strikes First that they’re bound to release sometime in 2009. Rest assured, I’ll be the first (and only one) in line for that.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.