CD REVIEW Bad Religion The Empire Strikes First 

The Empire Strikes First

is punk granddaddy Bad Religion's first new album since 2002's

The Process of Belief

.

Empire

is 14 pissed-off and melodic songs about BR's usual suspects--politics, society and other broad targets of their college-educated, middle-aged punk vitriol. The good news is the bad news: there aren't really any surprises. Fans will be either relieved or wearied by the same Bad Religion they know and love. With this album, Bad Religion proceeds along their same continuum making gradual changes so that their music today is far from the spare, one-to-two minute quickies on 1988's

Suffer

. The music is fuller, the song structures grander, more rock than pop-punk. What hasn't changed is the lyrics' motif of social commentary.

Empire

's theme for the most part is the state of the union. And thus, more than any other Bad Religion album,

Empire

has a particular freshness date (here, November 2). Bad Religion's last interesting album was 1998's

No Substance

, although nothing they've made since has been unlistenable.

The Empire Strikes First

seems to tone it down on the five-dollar words (perhaps Graffin and Gurewitz tired of running to the thesaurus) and there aren't any standouts that make you back up a particular track

. Empire

's songs are unremarkable, perfectly serviceable Bad Religion tunes.

--Sara Beitia

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