After reforming in 1987, Bad Religion released an astonishing three albums in just three years, Suffer (1988) No Control (1989) and Against the Grain (1990), collectively known to fans as the "Holy Trinity." As and a hardcore punk release from almost 21 years ago, listeners might wonder how No Control could possibly be relevant in the 21st Century. Well, through No Control (and the rest of the "Trinity"), not only did Bad Religion keep punk alive and evolving for the 90's, but they also had an incalculable influence on the entire 90's alternative scene from Nirvana all the way down to Blink-182. History aside though, No Control is simply a great album and a sonic treat for anyone willing to listen.
From the opening drum count-off to the final ring of electric guitars, No Control refuses to stop. Bad Religion's punk attack is nothing short of vicious and present in the raging drumming and blisteringly fast guitar work, especially on tracks like "You," "No Control" and "I Want to Conquer the World." Not wasting any time on overdrawn intros or repeated choruses, songs start and stop on a dime and cram massive amounts of music into compact spaces; only one track on the entire album passes the 2:30 mark. Singer Greg Graffin belts out themes on the the bleakness of the future with passion and conviction that inspires the listener to action, and backing vocals provide just enough harmony a la the band's trademark "Oozin' Ahhs" (see "Sanity") to make it accessible. Lyrically, Graffin crafts his trademark intelligent and meaningful verses that don't get too bogged down by SAT vocabulary as much as later albums.
The criticism of No Control are the ones that critics apply to BR's whole discography and punk in general. If you think that all BR songs sound the same, then some tracks (the last few) will seem to blend together. Some will also argue that the sub-1 minute songs take punk simplicity too far to a fault, and they're probably right. And while it isn't as bad here as on later albums, esoteric lyrics like "Is your fecundity a trammel or a treasure" are nothing more than Graffin's intellectual flexing. However, taken as a whole, No Control is punk at its best. The fact that a solid third of the album makes it to the "Greatest Hits" compilation All Ages (with the notable exception of fan-favorite "You") illustrates the shear consistency and depth of the album if nothing else. Fans of punk and Bad Religion will instantly fall in love with the No Control and newcomers should absolutely take the time to listen to 26 minutes of some of the most passionate and inspiring punk ever written.