Bad Religion have a lot to celebrate in 2010, a year which marks the thirtieth anniversary of their inception into the So-Cal punk scene (a label they would replace with “international punk scene”). The group is now teaching their urgent brand of political punk rock to an army of eager pupils that is multi-generational, and they’ve managed to stay relevant for longer than any of their former punk rock peers. To celebrate the occasion the group have just released their fifteenth studio LP, ‘Dissent of Man,’ a career-spanning live album, and are currently out on a national tour, which oddly enough finds the band shacking up at NYC’s famed Irving Plaza for three strangely non-consecutive nights. And with three of the four original members still being involved in the making of said albums, they’ve accomplished an impressive feat, especially when one considers the fact that they’re all smart enough to be doing anything else in the world that they might want to. They’re just cool enough to also be a legendary punk band as well.
This album has got everything you’d expect from a Bad Religion release, but where this band differs from the majority of groups, who simply rehash their sound far beyond it’s expiration date, is that Dissent of Man sounds genuinely inspired. We may have the eternally shitty state of politics in this great nation of ours to thank for that inspiration, but we also have Graffin’s uncanny ability to translate international despair into undeniable melody to thank for three decades of inspirational punk rock. Bad Religion have managed to put out albums with incredible regularity for the entirety of their career and, with the exception of their insipid soirée with prog rock in back in 1983, the albums never sound forced.
Many of the tracks on Dissent of Man show a definite maturation for the band, but a good number of them blaze through your speakers with the same pissed-off intensity that earned Bad Religion their notoriety in the early 1980’s. They look back upon their entire catalog for this release, recalling various high-points from their lengthy collection of songs – as well as revealing some new influences in the group’s sound including a bit of Tom Petty, and a distinct Wallflowers-vibe on “Cyanide“. As per usual, there are still plenty of trademark “ooooh’s” and “aaaaah’s” in all the right places, great news for those inclined to howl out when engaged in solo listening sessions. As with most Bad Religion albums, the faster, fiercer tracks are always the most attention-grabbing, and Meeting of the Minds is as good of a track as the band have ever released, but it’s Someone to Believe which stands out as the most notable on the album, if just for it’s lyrical content. Rarely do we hear the good Dr. Graffin waxing poetic about the positive aspects of our doomed planet, but this track (assumedly about the election of Barack Obama) gives one the sense that he may actually be hopeful about the fate of humanity. “It feels like the spring equinox after a long winter’s sleep,” Graffin belts out optimistically, “finally there’s someone to believe.”
Dissent of Man is yet another gem in the band’s already sparkling legacy, and it goes without saying that the world has not heard the last of Bad Religion yet. Any fans of the band will definitely enjoy this release, and if it perhaps becomes someone’s introduction to the band, they’re gonna have a hell of a time diving into thirty years of back catalog. Dissent of Man would have been a pretty great Bad Religion album in 1990, it is a great album in 2010, and chances are I’ll give a spin some lonely night in 2030 when I’m looking to reignite the punk rock pilot light of my youthful aggression. And, when Bad Religion go on their fiftieth anniversary tour you can bet I’ll be in the front row.
Now when is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gonna get wise?
By Alex Mosie