This country is a mess, but how many ringing choruses can make it better? Maybe, after 27 years of a calling for defiance and change, Bad Religion has come to the realization that their music can not necessarily save us from the problems of the world, but their music can still inspire listeners.

Bad Religion started in 1980 in California, and on July 10, released their fourteenth album, New Maps of Hell. The band is currently playing the main stage on the 2007 Warped Tour, which hit Chicago this past July 28.

The band’s only consistent member is singer Greg Graffin, who has also taken up a teaching career at UCLA. Original guitarist and co-songwriter, Brett Guerwitz, left Bad Religion in 1994 after the release of record, Stranger than Fiction. He left to spend more time running his record label, Epitaph Records, which was riding on the success of the record Smash by the Offspring. Bad Religion left Epitaph records to record on major label Atlantic records, in 1993, but later returned to Epitaph. Guerwitz also returned to the band to record 2002’s Process of Belief and has been with the band since, although not always touring because of the growth of Epitaph records over the years.

New Maps of Hell, Bad Religion’s follow-up to 2004’s The Empire Strikes First, has characteristics similar to their last album but has also gone back to their roots on some songs. Bad Religion is known for using a higher vocabulary than many other punk rock artists and three-part vocal harmonies frequently (referred to in their liner notes as the “oozing aahs”).

The sixteen track record starts with “52 Seconds,” probably the least likeable track on the record with its strange distorted vocals that are not typical for Bad Religion.

New Maps of Hell instantly redeems itself with “Heroes & Martyrs.” It starts with a fast instrumental opening, strong vocals and the typical vocal backings you would expect from a Bad Religion tune.

The first half of the record features shorter songs that are incredibly catchy, with the infectious guitar riffs, ringing choruses, fast pasted beating instrumentals and pretty much all the elements necessary to make a good punk song.

After twenty minutes of in-your-face, toe tapping and head bopping tracks, the album goes through a mood change, sustained throughout the second half of the record. The tracks are still good, solid, Bad Religion songs, but it seems by this point the band is aware a listener may be sick of tapping along on their steering wheel and is vulnerable to being sucked into listening to the actual message of the longer running tracks.

New Maps of Hell will be instantly likeable to fans of the last record and to older fans of records like Recipe for Hate. The first single off the record, “Honest Goodbye,” has typical Bad Religion choruses with echoing backing vocals and catchy “woahs,” but is a littler softer than the rest of the record. It makes sense as a single though – catchy, a little more poppy, but still recognizably Bad Religion.

Some of the tracks on the album worth checking out include “Germs And Perfection,” and “Requiem For Dissent.” This album is currently the bands highest charting debut album, selling 21,000 copies in the first week.

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