Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, when you think of influential punk rock bands you can’t not think of Bad Religion. On May 3rd, the LA punk rockers will release their seventeenth studio album ‘Age Of Unreason’ via Epitaph. It’s been six years since the bands last release, and features new guitarist Mike Dimkich who replaced Greg Hetson, and new drummer Jamie Miller, who takes the place of Brooks Wackerman. The current lineup of the band is Dimkich, Miller, vocalist Greg Graffin, guitarists Brian Baker and Brett Gurewitz, and bassist Jay Bentley.
Leading single Chaos From Within is first up and it’s a short, sharp, punchy punk rock song, working mostly as a reintroduction to the band after not releasing new music for a little while. There’s also a rocking guitar solo in the latter half of the track that’ll have you air-guitaring along. My Sanity is next up and Graffin kills it on lead vocals, with some really nice harmonies from backing vocalists Gurewitz and Bentley. There are a few spots when the guitars take centre stage, but there’s some really nice passages from Bentley and his bass as well.
Do The Paranoid Style is track three and it’s extremely politically charged lyrically, and it sounds a lot more aggressive than the previous two tracks. Wackerman is a hard act to follow in terms of drumming ability but Miller definitely holds his own, showing off his chops in a big way on this one. Track four is The Approach and the speed and the intensity from Do The Paranoid Style continues, but the lyrics are a lot less aggressive. The speed drops off a little bit when it comes to Lose Your Head but that’s a good one lyrically “self-pity is always a case of mistaken identity” is a fun line, and is completely open to interpretation on what you want it to mean. End Of History comes next and it’s musically a bit of a party jam, it’ll get you tapping your feet or nodding your head while you listen. Lyrically it seems a little bit darker than it sounds with lyrics like “tell me how do you wanna be remembered? For generosity, or a fucking monstrosity?” and “tell me where do you really want to be at the end of history?” It sounds a little bit like an end of the world song with the lyrical content, but as with most things dark in punk rock, still has a party vibe musically.
You can always count on Bad Religion to sound really tight musically, and The Age Of Unreason isn’t an exception. The way the bass and all three guitars layer with each other and are really neat sonically is a testament to that. The title track is one of the longer songs on the record, but it doesn’t drag in anyway and you’re left feeling satisfied with what you’ve heard by the time it’s over. Candidate is the halfway point of the record and it starts off with just Graffin and an acoustic guitar before the rest of the band come in. It’s actually one of my favourite tracks on the record, and a stand out. The whole record is quite politically charged, something not unlike Bad Religion, and this one in particular seems to be poking fun at a certain political figure. The lyric ‘a celebrity and my name is competition’ in particular being a bit of a dig, but it’s also a great line satirically.
Faces Of Grief has one of the best bass solos I’ve ever heard and it’s a nice, quick little track with a time stamp of just over a minute. “Faces of grief, rage is a key, pain is a thief” are the chorus lyrics and for anyone that has experienced loss or grief can relate to this pretty strongly as its rather accurate. Old Regime is next and it’s a direct commentary on the current political climate in the U.S and Donald Trump’s presidency. ‘The new aristocracy just smells like the old regime’ is a pretty powerful lyric, and there are also mentions of tyranny and ominous prophecy. It’s a pretty powerful song and the punchy guitars and drums behind it just push it that much harder.
We begin the down part of this rollercoaster with track eleven, Big Black Dog. There’s quite a few guitar solos on this record, but the one on this track is one of my favourites. The track as a whole is really stripped back and simple, a classic punk rock song, but the solo really gives it a bit of a different and interesting vibe. Track twelve is Downfall, and it’s got a little bit of electronic sounds and synths through it which kind of come out of nowhere but sound really good. The outro is also really strong and it’s a nice lead in to the next track.
Since When and What Tomorrow Brings are tracks thirteen and fourteen respectively. While thirteen may be unlucky for some, it’s certainly not for Bad Religion. Since When is a groovy little jam and is musically one of the strongest on the record in my opinion. Finally we have track fourteen, What Tomorrow Brings, and it’s the perfect way to end the record. Musically it pulls all the elements dispersed throughout it to a nice close, and lyrically its a compact summary of the political messages that permeate throughout.
Pre-Order ‘Age Of Unreason’ out May 3rd via Epitaph Records HERE!