|Category:||Article - Newspaper||Publish date:||4/23/1996|
|Source:||The Boston Globe, April 23, 1996, p. 57||With:||-|
Bad Religion gets preachy in its punk
by Jim Sullivan
The Boston Globe, April 23, 1996
You want groundbreaking punk rock with a lacerating guitar edge? Bad Religion has been there and done that.
Now, they're doing something similar, sonically speaking - but something that can be perceived quite differently - for a bigger audience.
Bad Religion, fronted by singer-songwriter Greg Graffin, are early-'80s, West Coast punk rock vets with three-chord songs, satisfying, simple hooks and lefty smarts. Aside from the amicable exit of guitarist Brett Gurewitz - who is off running Epitaph, the highly profitable indie label he founded, full time now - Bad Religion today is pretty much the same as it ever was, with ex-Minor Threat/Junkyard guitarist Brian Baker filling Gurewitz's stage shoes. The punk-rock market has come around to Bad Religion,without it giving a whole lot of ground.
For better or for worse. And both sides were in evidence at the quintet's 90-minute sold-out show at Avalon early Sunday night. Bad Religion is rhythmically and melodically consistent, lyrically sharp - coming off as righteous, angry and full of PC political agitprop. You know this if you've heard its mainstream breakthrough hit of a couple of years back, "21st Century Digital Boy.'' Graffin sang it early Sunday, rhyming "intellectual'' and "ineffectual,'' and adopting the persona of a happy, illiterate vidiot. You also know this if you've heard anything from Bad Religion's current CD, "The Gray Race,'' produced by ex-Car Ric Ocasek. Representative titles: "Them & Us,'' "Nobody Listens.''
Bad Religion leaned heavily on "The Gray Race'' in concert, savaging cult/sheep mentality in "Come Join Us,'' pumping up eternal rebellion in "Them & Us'' ("We can take them on!''). Bad Religion moves in two speeds: fast and faster. A new song, "Punk Rock Song,'' was introduced as being in "the old style.'' Huh? The difference, please?
Aye, that's the rub. Playboy has termed Bad Religion master of "its artform, creating defiant, burning music.'' But is it master or prisoner?
Bad Religion has barely a whiff of unpredictability about it. Everything hurtles along an earnest punk plateau, and very little stands up to shout. (Or shout louder.) Levity ain't part of the package. And Graffin's attitude begins to wear over the course of a long (by punk standards) show. "I hope we're successful in making you think,'' he said before "Ten in 2010,'' drawing a wince. (OK, we get it.) He veered away from MTV's beatific everybody-vote agenda by reasoning that all the presidential candidates inevitably slide to the middle ground and maybe a no-vote protest is valid.
It ended, as it should have, with "Cease,'' and the cry of "Everything must cease!'' from Graffin. Indeed, it is Bad Religion's policy that encores are bogus devices - "a throwback to vaudeville,'' Baker has said - and thus shunned. The crowd did not protest. They'd been sated. And really, Bad Religion had told us all it had to tell us. Actually, more.
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