Bad Religion, a band formed in 1980 in the midst of Southern California’s punk rock movement, has put forth a humanist view in the ever increasing hostile climate of organized religion, politics, and our greedy anti-intellectual establishment.
Punk rock is perhaps the best truth-teller music has to offer. I will talk about my other favorites of this genre in future blogs.
For now I want to discuss the new album from Bad Religion. 14 tracks brimming with melody, harmony, and brilliant dissent.
Going against the grain is at the heart of punk music. It can enlighten us, shake us, and bring energy into the deepening void of apathy and ignorance that engulfs most of our world.
After decades of listening to groups that are apolitical or have no critical point of view I decided to seek out more thoughtful groups. I found Bad Religion with their new record, “Age Of Unreason”.
The songs were inspired by America’s revival of nativism. The current attempts at governing are weakening our best intentions towards a more democratic society.
Below is the line-up that recorded this new record.
- Greg Graffin – lead vocals, piano, synthesizers, acoustic guitar (1980–present)
- Brett Gurewitz – guitar, backing vocals (1980–1983, 1987–1994, 2001–present)
- Jay Bentley – bass, backing vocals (1980–1982, 1986–present)
- Brian Baker – guitar, backing vocals (1994–present)
- Mike Dimkich – guitar (2013–present)
- Jamie Miller – drums, percussion (2015–present)
One of the qualities I love in punk is the ability to communicate directly with its audience. There are 14 tracks that clock in at 33 minutes. During the late 20th century the punks knew that attention spans were falling. They never faltered in the chords that made rock roll.
The band has a logo that shows a cross with a slash of prohibition through it. Greg Graffin explained: “we don’t like to subscribe to dogmatic ways of life and dogmatic views on life and that religion, in general, is founded in dogma and in restriction of ideas, restriction of thought and it’s these things that I feel are bad about religion, it’s also very bad about nationalistic views, it’s very bad … it’s something that mankind, as a group, is not going to benefit from; it’s only something that mankind will … it’s something mankind will … I’m sorry, it’s something that will instill violence, and it will instill fighting, and it will instill non-cooperation of different groups of humans.”
Chaos From Within opens with a quick tempo that reminds us that our current state results from the constant churning of madness within our body politic. The chorus goes like this:
Threat is urgent, existential
With patience wearing thin
But the danger’s elemental
It’s chaos from within
In this mad country our cockeyed optimism is always on display. The track “My Sanity” is a plea to hold on to this misguided belief system. At song’s end the following is declared: Sometimes there’s no sane reason for optimism.
Oh my sanity, my sanity
I’ve nothing to lose, so please let me be
My life is a song, a short melody
Harmonizing with reality
I’ve got it real bad, there’s no remedy
My world picture is exemplary
I won’t let you go, what else can there be
You’re all I have, my dear sanity
Do The Paranoid Style smartly mocks disposable dance crazes that have reinforced our march towards ignorance over reason. Make up your own truth without a care.
Hey kids on the right and left
Do you feel dispossessed
If you’re on the left or right
I feel your pain tonight
So shake off reality
It’s easy as you please
Soon everyone is dancing
It’s the paranoid style in American politics
Casey Jones you better watch your apocalypse
All kinds of wild interpretation
Are open to the paranoid imagination
Do The Paranoid Style is the catchiest track here. Then a galloping melody kicks in with ‘The Approach’. A reminder that despite the nonsense people are fed via social media we are still approaching the end. Be optimistic if you wish. The seeming rush to our destruction is ongoing.
There’s a moral and intellectual vacuum and you’re right to be lookin’ askance
Philosophically moribund, revolution hasn’t a chance
As the light fades, the shadows dance in silhouette .
Then a beautiful respite in “Lose Your Head”. A real punk statement of not going off the deep end because of our stupid system. My favorite lyric is: There’s an accident waiting to happen at all times anyway
And maybe we’d all benefit from some epistemic humility .
Without this humility how will any of us be remembered? The sixth track, “End Of History” asks the most of us. Are we really okay with letting maniacs lead us to our demise?
Halcyon days are not a thing
Nostalgia is no excuse for stupidity
I don’t believe in golden ages
Or presidents that put kids in cages
America awaits on bended knee
Can’t you see
Sweet children, Locke’s burden
Why did mother draw the curtains
Free will is your dilemma, (what will the dust remember)
Tell me where do you really want to be?
At the end of history?
At the midpoint we receive the title track. The song pleads with us that many cannot see the country’s heart is bleeding because of the man who brought back tyranny.
The mass is unrepentant in this age of unreason. The environment is being poisoned. Dogmatic systems are promoting over population, consumerism, and waste.
I feel strongly this record is one of the finest of 2019. A remarkable dissent in a culture that retreats from empathy.
The second half has good tracks. I will not go deep into them like I did with the first 7 tracks. Listeners should have their own thoughts about this work.
What follows is a brief description of the second half of the record:
'The Candidate' denounces our current clown. He is a fraud. A Pied Piper type demanding that you (rats like you) should follow his populist tune. Nothing but a conjurer of violence and despair. Yet still promises to make all your worries disappear.
"Faces of Grief" is a short, sweet punk riff about the dangerous tribalism religion bestows upon all.
"Old Regime" shreds with protest fury. The track reminds us that today's aristocracy is just the old non-democratic regime with a different name.
"Big Black Dog" is one of my favorite songs. Calling out the President as a traitor in chief. The song is groove driven.
"Downfall" has a new wave thread that allows the hook to take hold of the listener. The lyrics describe a society that has turned away from science in favor of dogma. The wave that is surely to come will destroy us.
"Since Now" poses that we are living in the upside down. Our new bizarre reality is that everything we thought was true is being ripped apart. The punkish answer is to say since when... Structured as a list of grievances sure to wake up the apathetic hordes.
The closing track is "What Tomorrow Brings". A note of hopeful finality to the proceedings, more than sociological or technological, it's what tomorrow brings. The changes we need are what may come.
Punk is protest. Punk is relevant. Punk is open. The form embraces the misfit in all of us. Please give this record a listen. You may just find you are not alone in the crucible of our current mad state.