& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & once described Bad Religion as the band Green Day desperately wanted to be when they made American Idiot. Bad Religion's signifiers are smart lyrics, more harmonizing than you'd expect, and songs so catchy that after two decades of making them I'm surprised they're not the most popular band in the world. American Idiot had some catchy songs; New Maps of Hell has everything but. Greg Graffin remains the only singer whose lyrics I need a dictionary to decipher. (Who else rhymes "adjudicate" with "ameliorate"?) The music hasn't changed much in 10 albums, though I don't have a problem with that. What irks me is that in 16 tracks, "New Maps of Hell" doesn't have one song as fun to sing along with as "Sinister Rouge" or "L.A. Is Burning" from their last album, or anything from All Ages. There's not even a single wailing guitar solo.
-- BEN KROMER
DOWNLOAD: "New Dark Ages"
A Year in the Wilderness
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & ith hints of desolation and longing readily apparent from the title, ex-X-man John Doe's latest solo album shows a vast complexity of spirit, if not subject matter. Much closer in feeling to his alt-country solo offerings of the recent past than to the blitzkrieg punk of his angry youth, A Year in the Wilderness stands as a testament to unguarded reflection and evaluation. The characters have motivations as diffuse as Doe's own. Perhaps one can see the mellower side of Doe here, but that isn't quite the point. Though musically restrained -- this is basically an acoustic album -- the lyrics unveil starker realities than the grittiest of his punk offerings.
Violence, emotionally and physically speaking, permeates the lot. But the harshness of "Meanest Man in the World" and "Unforgiven" suggests the frequency with which such cruelty is often turned inward. Full of surprises, Doe and the album shine.