Years can't dull impact of Bad Religion
Bad Religion has morphed into Dad Religion. The aging punkers are now well past the diapers and cries of early fatherhood. Their children are now old enough to be contemporaries of some of their fans.
However, in an era of punk rock marked by young suburbanites with temporary hair dye singing tunes about unrequited puppy love, the elder statesmen still do it better and smarter than anyone else.
The live shows are just as bombastic as they were two decades ago. Only now, the legs hurt more, the voice dies quicker and the will is weaker.
2004 / Special to The Press-Enterprise
Bad Religion, who still has something to say after 25 years, will make three stops in Southern California.
"We know we're not going to go out on the road for nine months straight any more, not if we want to stay married and get a chance to see our kids grow up," guitarist Brian Baker said by phone from his Washington, D.C., home.
Principal songwriters Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz continue to live up to the punk rock Lennon and McCartney billing by crafting songs with as much vitriol and energy as they did in their youth, while maintaining a healthy sense of relevance.
Just about every tune has the same beat, same layered harmonies and same three chords. But there is a soul -- a familiarity -- that makes throwing on a Bad Religion album akin to visiting with an old friend.
Graffin's husky voice still rings with a fury that awakens something that was inside you the first time you heard them.
"The Empire Strikes First," the group's 12th album, released last year, is a scathing attack on the current administration, but that's not all it is. There's a sense of nostalgia in there that recalls a yearning for answers that tends to fall by the wayside as age and responsibilities mount.
"All There Is," a song on "Empire" that questions what happens when days as we know them are no longer, would have been just as urgent had it been written 20 years prior. With an average age of more than 40, the punk-rock spirit makes Bad Religion still a necessity, 25 years after the band started.
"The reason that we're still doing this is that we still have a lot to say," Baker said. "I think our last two albums were two of our strongest and if they weren't we'd have stopped."
Both sold more in the first week than any previous efforts, which can be attributed to the band's uncanny knack to write songs that tap into the psyche of a 15-year-old and a 35-year-old with equal fervor. Bad Religion's penchant for touching on broad issues -- politics and religion -- from a broad perspective, rather than focusing on personal diatribes centered on relationships, makes this possible. Everyone has questions on some level.
The band has always appealed to deep thinkers, who are quick to read along with the lyrics while keeping a dictionary handy. Graffin's advanced education (he has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from Cornell University) rears its head in his thesaurus-heavy verbiage. However, the underlying theme of "question everything and trust no one" is easy to grasp at any level.
This is how Bad Religion tows the line between the intellectual and the commonplace. Well, that and the buzz-saw guitar riffs.
By PAUL SAITOWITZ / The Press-Enterprise