Review || Good Riddance - "Thoughts And Prayers"

Good Riddance, the seminal 4-piece melodic hardcore band from Santa Cruz, California, are releasing their 9th full length studio album on July 19th 2019 through Fat Wreck Chords titled "Thoughts And Prayers". From the moment the Californian punk rock sound wave hit in the mid ‘90’s, a ton of well- (and sometimes over-) produced melodic punk records and clean vocal - catchy octave guitar riff - fast drum part - bands take over the punk scene. However, both mega-record labels of the time, namely Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords, took it upon themselves to sign a small array of bands that sounded more or less different than anything described so far. Fat Wreck Chords released Good Riddance’s For God and Country in 1995, which seemed like a step into the unknown. Basically it was a new edge hardcore record that had one song which could be labelled as “sort of punk rock”, "Mother Superior". 

I can’t say for sure when "A Comprehensive Guide for Moderne Rebellion" hit my ears, but when it did, everything changed drastically. It was only the second full length for Good Riddance, released only a year apart from the previous material and yet it just sounded extremely different to me; it was faster, more melodic, just an incredible BIG record. 
The reality is that Good Riddance still considered themselves to be more of a hardcore than a punk rock band. Their next two albums, "Ballads From The Revolution" and "Operation Phoenix" (their best-selling record to date, if I’m not mistaken) weighed more on the heavier side of things. The band even switched producers on the latter record going with Bill Stevenson, who then hadn’t produced almost anything noteworthy for the punk scene. Five LP’s later Good Riddance have never made another record with a different producer and he is the biggest producer in the punk scene… Then in 2001 the band composed what I consider its best work and one of my all-time top ten records. "Symptoms Of A Levelling Spirit" is ahead of its time, diverse, ultra-catchy, flawless.   
Against all logic, the band struggles to stay relevant in the 2000 emo/metal core era and dissolves in 2007. Five years later, in the midst of a skate punk revival Good Riddance re-emerges bringing post break up material with the release of "Peace in our Time" in 2015, a record which didn’t really blow my socks off, but mainly because it wasn’t a great comeback record. 

Continuing my long personal connection with the band, I get asked to review their newest LP "Thoughts And Prayers". Every element of Good Riddance is profound on this new LP. Russ Rankin’s voice is super consistent – the man hasn’t sounded different since day number one, which is impressive – his lyrics are aggressive, eloquent as hell and elementary as always, the music is stellar and for the most part completely up to par with any Good Riddance album to date. Compared to "Peace In Our Time", this record feels organized, processed, thought through carefully and miles away from an identity standpoint. 
The more I’ve listened to "Thoughts And Prayers", the more I have come to love it and my favourite moments are those when the band steps out of the strict melodic hardcore pattern and into fresh territory. "No King But Caesar", "Wish You Well" and especially "No Safe Place" are incredible on every level, while "Edmund Pettus Bridge", "Don’t Have Time", "Precariat" and "Pox Americana" are songs that highlight every facet of the band’s signature song writing; fast heavy melodic music, octave lead guitars, a steady rhythm section and, of course, a top performance of one of the best vocalists this genre has ever known. It goes without saying that the production is top notch, even if it doesn’t set any new ground from their previous work.

If you’re not a Good Riddance fan, "Thoughts And Prayers" is a heavy melodic punk rock record, the likes of which doesn’t really see the light of day anymore. If you are a fan, think of the entire Good Riddance catalogue; most of their records seem to have a bunch of hits and are considered good albums, at least two of them are amazing top to bottom. "Thoughts And Prayers" is a record in between those two categories.    

P.S. It is the coolest thing ever, if a band/label backs up review requests by adding the lyrics to the shared material. 

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