Greg Graffin

Picture of Greg Graffin

American Lesion

Greg Graffin - American Lesion ©1997 Atlantic
1. Opinion
2. Fate's Cruel Hand
3. Predicament
4. The Fault Line
5. When I Fail
6. Cease
7. Maybe She Will
8. The Elements
9. In the Mirror
10. Back To Earth

One of the mistakes many musicians make is overestimating their audience's ability to demonstrate a broadminded approach to musical output. For instance, Celtic Frost thought that the best possible thing they could do after the avantgarde metal masterpiece was to release a glam metal styled album called Cold Lake. The resulting abject failure of that release has entered the metal lexicon as making the ultimate career mistake. Bad Religion had their Cold Lake moment in the early 80s, releasing a prog-rock tinged album called Into the Unknown in 1983, and promptly watched their fans flee en masse. In fact, Bad Religion folded for a bit, but ultimately rebounded later in the decade, establishing a winning melodic punk rock formula on Suffer. They never looked back nor did they ever attempt to expand their musical horizons in a sizeable way.

Meanwhile, going back to the metal world, Bathory's Quorthon also decided he wanted to make some music outside of Bathory's general realm and smartly put out a couple grunge-rock flavored solo releases. Needless to say, he did not taint the Bathory image by doing so and was able to try out some other musical desires. This is precisely what Tom G. Warrior should have done with Cold Lake. Now, I doubt Greg Graffin paid any attention to either of those metal bands, but in 1997 the urge to write and play non-Bad Religion music hit the singer. And very smartly, he made a solo record rather than using the Bad Religion name again.

American Lesion, the resulting solo record, was actually not even overtly credited to Graffin in the artwork, but we all know it's him. Musically, Graffin explores moody rock pieces focused on crooning, the piano and acoustic type of pieces. For all I know, Graffin in fact wrote many Bad Religion songs on the piano before bringing them to his band. But on American Lesion, Graffin sticks to the quiet, moody arrangements to mixed results. It should be pointed out that some of these songs fall flat or have some bizarre lyrics. Whatever Graffin was working out in these songs, he doesn't necessarily succeed in conveying. There's a couple above average tracks: "Maybe She Will" and "The Elements" both have good moments. "When I Fail", however, is prophetic in its title and has some of the aforementioned weird lyrics: "On day my life will be chocolate shakes/and late night TV". So much for being able to slip the word "dichotomy" into a lyric sheet and making it rock super-hard. American Lesion does offer up a remake of a Bad Religion song, "Cease", which is interesting for a totally different take on a punk rock song. (Just to stick to the heavy metal tie-in, Anathema covered "Better Off Dead" with a female singer on one of their compilations.)

Since Graffin was wise enough to release this material outside of the Bad Religion camp, American Lesion stands as a somewhat mixed solo album that shows some of Graffin's flaws and perhaps a bit of insight into his songwriting process. Had this been a Bad Religion album, we would have had Into the Unknown, the sequel. However, it is more of a curiosity for fans, but hardly something you should rush out to find.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2010

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