ONE FOR THE AGES: BAD RELIGION’S STRANGER THAN FICTION
1994 was a year of great musical discovery for me. Like most youth, my main sources for music were MTV and the radio, but with majors rolling in dough and taking chances that’d be deemed suicidal in today’s record industry climate those media were actually pretty decent ways to find new music. Since my recently inherited MetalSucks Time Machine 1988 Honda Accord has only a tape deck, I raided the tape collection that I still have at Mama Neilstein’s apartment and uncovered a mix that I’d compiled by sitting next to the radio with my finger on the “record” button. Listening back to my mix there were some surprising strikes that proved even at that age I knew what I was doing — songs by Down, Corrosion of Conformity, Pantera, Killing Joke and more — and yeah, some misses too that I won’t bother to enumerate here (ok, I’ll give you one: Presidents of the United States of America. LUMP!). But can you imagine hearing a band like Corrosion of Conformity on mainstream, primetime radio in 2010? Hard to imagine there was ever a time.
Bad Religion’s Stranger Than Fiction was one record I discovered that year. I fell instantly in love with it on the strength of the single “21st Century Digital Boy” which I’d heard on MTV, and I damn near wore out that CD; I still have my original copy and it’s scratched to oblivion. I don’t know why, but the album’s title track popped into my head this morning so I decided to revisit the album for the first time in a few years. Unsurprisingly I still know all the riffs, all the changes, all the words by heart. I love this album to death; I just finished listening to it and I might actually play it through again because it’s so good. At the time I didn’t care about such seeming minutae, but the album marked Bad Religion’s debut with major label Atlantic Records, was produced by big cat Andy Wallace, and also marked the last album to feature guitarist Brett Gurewitz (until his return 7 years later).
Some time in the mid ’90s I saw Bad Religion live at Irving Plaza; I stayed up front the whole time, and at that point it was definitely the roughest, craziest moshpit I’d ever been in to that point. I got beat the fuck up, and in retrospect I have no idea how my scrawny ass survived such an ordeal. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that that concert and Stranger Than Fiction changed my life. This album will always be special to me, and I’d really love to go see Bad Religion live again some day.