Rather than write a review of something new, which I almost always hate at first because I don’t like change and new things, I thought I’d remind everyone of The Process of Belief by Bad Religion, which was released in 2002. I know 13 years is kind of a random time, but I had to be honest with myself and admit that The New America, which came out in 2000, really did kind of suck. That album was the first one to gain mainstream attention with the title track “New America,” which sounded nothing like the Bad Religion everyone was used to. If you ask almost any veteran punk, they will tell you The New America is the worst Bad Religion album ever, they sold out, etc. I defended that album for a long time, as it came out when I was in my formative years, but I have to jump on the bandwagon (slightly grudgingly) and admit The New America doesn’t even break the top 10 of Best Things Bad Religion Ever Produced.
I feel like The Process of Belief was heavily ignored by the non-mainstream due to the reception of The New America. Obviously the album did well; everyone knows “Sorrow,” and it peaked 30-some-odd points higher on Billboard than The New America. But even then, I don’t know many people who are into punk without being Bad Religion fans that remember The Process of Belief. Since I don’t play music, I can only judge as a consumer. My standards are somewhat low; I like the basic instruments (guitars, drums, bass) played fast while still being more music than noise, with melodic vocals that are some combination of intelligent, witty, and/or entertaining (read: I am able to sing along). This album meets my somewhat mediocre standards, but music is so much more than that: this album makes me feel. The New America, overall, did not make me feel anything. In contrast, The Process of Belief really made me think and feel about things outside my 16 year-old inherently narcissistic self. I didn’t understand what “Kyoto Now!” was about at the time, but I knew shit was bad, and that song made me angry. Rightfully so, covering up nuclear disasters is generally frowned upon. “Sorrow,” even despite being completely played out, still encourages me to love my neighbor, in complete opposition to my general apathy toward everyone who isn’t my cat. “Evangeline” is rather cryptic, but it always made me proud to be an atheist, if only because what’s mine is mine and I don’t have to worry about any omnipotent being judging me. Similar feelings arose due to “Destined for Nothing.” That song is far more transparent, with lyrics like “headed for eternity and destined for nothing,” making me happy that I was living for myself and not for some interpretation of a 2000+ year-old book. The last song that gave me particularly peculiar feelings was “You Don’t Belong.” When I was 16, I was like, yeah, outcast anthem! But after hearing the song a few times I was like, no, wait, no one is special..? I didn’t know at the time who most of the people in the song were, save Milo, GG, and Jack, two of which I did, and still do, look up to as people who “don’t belong.”* I decided this song really was dedicated to me. And you. Yeah, you.
If you don’t know who Bad Religion is, The Process of Belief is a good place to start. No, it is not their best album by punk standards, but I feel like this is their most encompassing, mass-friendly album that is not offensive to long time Bad Religion fans. And if you are a Bad Religion fan, revisit this album. If you’re still holding a grudge about them being sellouts, maybe this last purist fact will help: The Process of Belief was their first album back on Epitaph Records and ushered the return of Brett Gurewitz. There is bound to be at least one song on the album that is meaningful to you, and meaning is what it’s really all about, right? *Milo is Milo Auckerman of the Descendents, who took a hiatus from the band in order to obtain a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and still plays to this day in between bouts of scientific research. *GG is GG Allen. Look him up. *Jack is Jack Grisham, lead singer of T.S.O.L and infamous cross-dresser. He also ran for governor in the clusterfuck that was the 2003 California governor reelection. I, and approximately 2,000 other people, voted for him.