Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bad Religion Puts The Devil in Stitches

Bad ReligionAfter 30 years in the music scene, with subsequent highs and lows across 14 studio albums and only one constant member, asking whether a punk rock band founded in 1979 can still be relevant is a fair question. If you ask some bands, the answer is no. If you ask Bad Religion, the answer is different.

As a songwriter, Greg Graffin seems as fresh as he was as a 15-year-old archetypal punk in a high school band. He's been the backbone of Bad Religion, with some obvious influence and additions by Brett Gurewitz too. Several times throughout the band's career, they have written and produced music that has had a profound affect on punk (and nu-metal, imo) without ever catching fire among mainstream audiences.

"There's an an inherent world out there that talks about me that I don’t pay attention to," explained Graffin in a recent exclusive interview. "I have a philosophy and that’s why I don’t interact with [writers, reviewers] in general on the page. And I believe that there’s a Bad Religion of my own heart and there’s a Bad Religion of public consumption. I don’t control the public consumption."

Graffin likely feels the same way about his book, Anarchy Evolution, which has the same release date (Sept. 28) as his band's new album, The Dissent of Man. The most exciting prospect of The Dissent of Man is that Bad Religion doesn't consider it another crown on their 31-year run. They consider it the next chapter in their storied career.

Is The Dissent of Man Marks A New Chapter.

With three original members Graffin (vocals), Gurewitz (guitar, background vocals), and Jay Bentley (bass, background vocals)] plus Greg Heston (guitar), Brian Baker (guitar), and Brooks Wackerman (drums) who have all been together for the last decade, The Dissent of Man holds exceptional promise based on the new single alone.

The Devil In Stitches, which debuted on KROQ 106.7 in Los Angeles just before being put up on MySpace, is the first of the fifteen tracks released. It's certainly more soft and more upbeat than New Dark Ages on New Maps of Hell (2007), but it's the lyrics and harmonies that stick. Gurewitz has offered up that fans can expect more of the same.

“These are some of my favorite songs I’ve ever written,” offered Gurewitz to Epitaph Records. “A few of them took me way outside my comfort zone as a writer to a place I haven’t gone since Recipe or Stranger than Fiction.”

The Devil in Stitches confirms that Bad Religion isn't locked into punk anymore (they haven't been for some time). There will be some punk, but the album also carries a mix of radio rock, classic rock, and alternative rock that may help them reach a broader audience. While that might seem a bit off the reservation for some, Bad Religion isn't likely to care. The album itself is about change, and the diverse musical styles reflect it.

There won't be much live footage of Bad Religion until their new tour starts, but one of my personal favorites is the partial 1996 clip of Generator from Germany. If you want something more recent, check out Moscow (2010) with the same song.

While no one expects another Generator on the new album (which could be right or wrong), The Devil in Stitches demonstrates that there is a lot of life left in Bad Religion. Sure, there are plenty of aging bands that make younger listeners throw up their hands and wonder what's the rub up with the "old guys," Bad Religion is as relevant as ever and the first song out of the box proves it. Love it or hate it, they don't care so much. Heck, Graffin has called his work pop with an edge once or twice.

The Devil in Stitches By Bad Religion Dances With 7.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The Devil In Stitches is available for download on iTunes. You can find The Devil In Stitches on Amazon for less if you are willing to lose some quality with an MP3.

Also on Amazon, you can pre-order Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God by Greg Graffin. Graffin, as some people know, earned a PhD from Cornell University and teaches evolution at the University of California at Los Angeles. Personally, I don't subscribe to atheism, but I always appreciate well-rounded ideas and might even pick up the book.
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