What better way to kick off a new year than with a brand new Bad Religion album? ‘True North’ follows on from a solid effort in ‘The Dissent Of Man’, and though you still pretty much know what you’re getting when you press play on a Bad Religion record, there’s still plenty of joy to be taken from the sixteen tracks here – not least because the band have an authenticity about them that remains untouched by any of their less experienced contemporaries.

The best thing about ‘True North’ lies in that most of the songs clock in around the two minute mark – there’s something about Bad Religion that doesn’t quite fit slow pace, and ‘Hello Cruel World’ is the one and only track here that manages to fall into that particular precipice. Otherwise, the album has stacks of pace and fares very well because of it (‘Vanity’ and ‘Fuck You’ in particular are great).

Greg Graffin’s vocal sounds wise and strong throughout, and there really is something about Bad Religion that sets them apart. They’re one of the great punk innovators, and ‘True North’ certainly has that comforting familiarity about it that fans have come to expect over the years. That they can produce a song called ‘Fuck You’ and not induce a facepalm speaks volumes, and it’s certainly not a record for the sake of producing a record.

That said (and before hearing any of the tracks live), ‘True North’ does lack a Bad Religion classic. Tracks like ‘Dept. of False Hope’ and ‘Changing Tide’ are certainly right up there though, and plenty of the tracks should end up more than welcome in the band’s live repertoire. It’s hard to imagine swathes of younger listeners being instantly drawn to the band through ‘True North’, but that’s probably true of most of the band’s material these days anyway. It feels like a record for the fans, and there’s enough balls and pace here to make a worth a listen or ten.

Bad Religion remain iconic and a magnet for respect (rightly so), and ‘True North’ will no doubt solidify that for a few more years. At some point they’re going to have to call it day, but not before you drag them kicking and screaming from the studio and stage. A fine way to start off 2013.

TOM AYLOTT