They say rock n’roll is a young man’s game. Imagine what they say about punk.
Bad Religion never worried much about what “they” say, and neither should you. Go by the energy, go by the intent, go by the WORK – of which this classic, groundbreaking hardcore band could never be accused of avoiding.
Aside from essentially defining the California half-pipe punk blueprint, Bad Religion has defied the usual trend-shifts or values-ditched ubiquities of the usual punk band storyline and morphed along with challenging album after challenging album amid astoundingly consistent touring, retaining their core audience while roping in subsequent generations of anxiously energetic kids.
The band has long settled into the current lineup who have arguably enacted to most muscular Bad Religion to ever grace a stage: Greg Graffin (vocals) and Jay Bentley (bass) join Brian Baker (guitarist since ’94), guitarist Mike Dimkich, and drummer Jamie Miller.
Bad Religion is in an almost singular position in the history of punk. Having formed right on the heels of the original explosion, they led the west coast arm of hardcore’s birth, adding their melodic riffs, zooming harmonies, and viciously verbose lyrical punch to the basic bash of hardcore. Then the band continued to expand their template through the ‘80s and into the indebted “neo-punk” sound of the early ‘90s, and weathered the questionable dichotomies of the “alternative rock” era by doing what they’ve always done – releasing explosive album after album to consistent acclaim from fans and critics.
And if you’re positive there is no way they could keep doing the same thing all these years, you’d be right. They haven’t. They’ve continued to throw songwriting and production wrenches into the works so’s not to bore themselves or their never-diminishing following.
The current lineup can flesh out any of the band’s eras, but they seem perfectly suited for the band’s latter day catalog that’s so vehemently fueled by the third-gear aggression of a punk band who is still out there playing with, gathering energy from, and inspiring the newest punk bands — keeping these elder statesmen of punk sharp, incensed, and ready to go forward.
The band’s rep as socially aware thought-provokers can obscure the fact they’ve remained one of the most viscerally powerful live bands on the planet, remembering it’s the beats and riffs that get your ass off the couch in the first place.
Of course, being stuck to the couch was sometimes inescapable during our last terrible years of COVID fear. So once again leaning into their smarts, Bad Religion concocted an online run of eight, chronologically curated, streaming live show docuseries, recorded at the Roxy in Hollywood as COVID reared its fangs. Two seasons of career-highlighting, fan-thanking ballyhoo, featuring jaw-dropping reminders of the band’s development in the face of often simplistic skate punk pigeonholing.
And in 2021, Bad Religion released its own long-awaited autobiography, Do What You Want: The Story of Bad Religion, credited to, of course, the whole band. While propped up on the band’s egalitarian legend, its focus is the long and moshing road of a band who probably would’ve laughed if you’d told their 20-something selves they’d be celebrating their 40th anniversary. Laughed, then strapped on their guitars and jumped out on stage again. If you get to see Bad Religion – as they perform at upcoming club and festival shows – you’ll see that snotty 20-something is still kicking its way out.