Without Bad Religion, it’s hard to believe many outsides of California would have ever heard bands like Rancid, The Offspring or NOFX.
Beside the fact that Bad Religion is a wildly influential group – having inspired kids across the globe to pick up guitars – co-songwriter/guitarist Brett Gurewitz’s founding of the iconic punk indie label Epitaph Records gave earlier homes to all of the band’s mentioned above helping to user punk rock into the mainstream in the ’90s.
It’s also hard to find any punk band that have continuously been putting out new music and playing shows since the early ’80s. So, a bio of the band was clearly warranted. What’s surprising, though, is just how compelling the book manages to be despite decades of articles and interviews that that have already been written about the band.
Do What You Want is the first exhaustive examination of one of California’s greatest punk rock bands. Members open up to Ruland in ways they never have in the past, with each sharing their own insights into the band’s long and not always easy history.
In particular, the lineup changes—half of which would have ended lesser bands—and the members confessional stories about drug and alcohol issues are shared with an impressive openness here. Gurewitz specifically, who left the band in the mid-1980s and again in the mid-1990s only to rejoin, details in frank terms his time in jail and rehab and his various struggles to get clean. Much like their music, it’s that honesty that makes this much more than a just another paint-by-numbers, rock star memoir.
Bad Religion have long been pegged—rather aptly—as the thinking person’s punk rock band. Their lyrics, even going back to that first album in 1982, dealt with so much more than just run of the mill rebellion, and that only continued as the band members grew (and as co-writer Greg Graffin continued to peruse life as an academic).
Their songs touched on topics like religion, morality, evolution, war and poverty, among other themes, at a time when many were still singing about teenage crushes and getting loaded. It’s hard to explain just how influential Bad Religion have become and why, but Do What You Want does a pretty admirable job of trying.