Has there ever been a time where we needed Bad Religion more?
In an age of trumpeted ignorance, willful—even gleeful—stupidity, and a growing wave of moral turpitude, Bad Religion is the guiding light to which all punk rockers look. Having been a voice of intensive critical thinking and integrity since the early 80s, it’s no wonder that Greg Graffin and company have chosen for their seventeenth album the title Age of Unreason, a reference to the Thomas Paine tome ‘Age of Reason’ (which we’ve all read, of course). The erosion of objective truth and logic defines the era in which we find ourselves, and in turn provides plenty of fodder for a good, angry punk rock banger or fourteen.
Nearing forty years of existence, it is no exaggeration to call Bad Religion true elder statesmen of punk rock. Age of Unreason continues their cognizant style of politically and socially conscious punk, with a few moments that surprise. But Bad Religion largely stick to what’s worked for them since the early 80s—highly melodic hardcore punk featuring frenetic guitar solos, pounding bass and a wall of ‘ahhhhs’, as Graffin’s professorial presence stands front and center.
“Threat is urgent, existential, with patience wearing thin, but the danger’s elemental, it’s chaos from within,” Graffin sings on the chorus of album opener “Chaos from Within”, and sets the table for one hell of a dissection of modern American discordance. The album touches on a host of timely topics, including the rise of white nationalism, Colin Kaepernick, and the proliferation of reckless conspiracy theories. Never ones to shy away from taking a side, Bad Religion’s lyrics are as powerful and relevant as ever, providing comfort to those seeking clear-headed intellect, and cutting through the inundation of white noise.
“Do the Paranoid Style” features a rapid-fire floor tom beat, giving a fresh spark to one of the more effective songs. “Candidate” is also a clear album peak, sounding like one of the stronger mid-tempo offerings from their 1994 album Stranger Than Fiction. “Faces of Grief” is the most ferocious song on the album, harkening back to Bad Religion’s hardcore roots. It clocks in at just over a minute, and is a shot of adrenaline that proves these old boys still got it.
“There’s a moral and intellectual vacuum and you’re right to be lookin’ askance,” Graffin sings on the track “The Approach”, and in turn sums up much of what Age of Reason conveys—that these times are far from normal or acceptable, and as such we should not tolerate the intolerable. Words we’ve heard before, surely—yet to hear them from Bad Religion proves strangely consoling, and empowering.