18. Bad Religion, 'Stranger Than Fiction' (1994)
Formed in 1980, Bad Religion were already the granddaddies of SoCal pop-punk in 1993, when they shocked the punk world by leaving Epitaph Records – the label run by BR guitarist and co-founder Brett Gurewitz – for Atlantic. But Stranger Than Fiction (their major-label debut, and eighth full-length overall) was actually a rousing reaffirmation of Bad Religion's seemingly innate ability to harness switchblade-sharp melodic hooks and incisive social commentary to a lean and muscular guitar roar. "I think there's a lot of question out there with our loyal fans as to whether we're going to change our musical style to try to appeal to, say, the KROQ audience or the Pearl Jam fan, you know what I mean, since we're now on a major label," Gurewitz told The Big Takeover in 1994. "I wanted to let them know that here's a record that our loyal fans can stand behind because it's punk as hell." Stranger Than Fiction became the first and only Bad Religion album to go gold, while "Incomplete," "The Handshake," "Stranger Than Fiction" and a swaggering re-recording of "21st Century (Digital Boy)" from 1990's Against the Grain remain some of the best-loved songs in the band's extensive catalog. D.E.