Bad Religion

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
I know a few of us around here (well, at least @Forostar and I) are into Bad Religion, so I figured why not start a topic?

For those who don't know: here's their Wikipedia page. TL;DR SoCal/Surf/Skate punk veterans of 4 decades with a shocking ear for melody and intelligent, educated lyrics far beyond those of their peers (and those they've influenced). Their founding guitarist Brett Gurewitz is the owner of Epitaph Records and their singer, Greg Graffin, is an evolutionary biologist.

I've started going through their discography as I read along with their biographical book Do What You Want and thought I'd at least share some simple thoughts on each album as I go.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
How Could Hell Be Any Worse? (1982)
The attitude and speed of Bad Religion is born here. They are full of fire and energy and this record just brims with vitriol. That said, it is, both literally and sonically, an album made by a bunch of kids. I'd be lying if I said I like this album, because the poor recording quality and immaturity of the performances (half of the songs are played by a novice drummer, Greg hasn't found his voice yet) are simply too hard for me to see through. It is a sign of things to come, but certainly not something I ever relisten to for fun. Some of the songs endure in live shows, where they sound vastly superior.

Into The Unknown (1983)
A complete, and absurd 180 degree turn from the debut album, this record feels more like a heavier Genesis or watered down attempt at 60s/70s psychedelic rock. The band decided to incorporate synthesizers and their fans (and band members) turned on them. Since the release of this album, the founding members have done their best to delete it from history. Songs aren't generally played live (beyond the recent "Decades" live stream events) and no one looks back on it fondly. All of that said, in my opinion, this is a more rewarding record than the debut. Greg finds his voice here and the band learns that they can utilize acoustic guitars and time signature shifts. Also, The Dichotomy is a cool tune.
 

Forostar

Ancient Mariner
Nice Knick. I am very, very much into eighties and nineties Bad Religion and regard that output among my favourite music (from all genres).

While the band may not really play or sing that well / or at least: much rougher/looser than on later output, and while the production is so much worse than on later albums (since 1988) I really have grown fond of the old stuff. My favourite pre-Into the Unknown songs are:

Drastic Actions: Bad Religion (EP) (1981) & Public Service (VA compilation album, 1981)
Bad Religion: Bad Religion (EP) (1981) & Public Service (VA compilation album, 1981)

1. "We're Only Gonna Die"
2. "Latch Key Kids"
3. "Part III"
4. "Faith in God"
5. "Fuck Armageddon...This Is Hell"
6. "Pity"
7. "Into the Night"
8. "Damned to Be Free"
9. "White Trash (2nd Generation)"
14. "Doing Time"
All from How Could Hell Be Any Worse? (1982)

My favourite 5 of these favs are in fat blue.
 
Last edited:

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
Nice Knick. I am very, very much into eighties and nineties Bad Religion and regard that output among my favourite music (from all genres).

While the band may not really play or sing that well / or at least: much rougher/looser than on later output, and while the production is so much worse than on later albums (since 1988) I really have grown fond of the old stuff. My favourite pre-Into the Unknown songs are:

Drastic Actions: Bad Religion (EP) (1981) & Public Service (VA compilation album, 1981)
Bad Religion: Bad Religion (EP) (1981) & Public Service (VA compilation album, 1981).

1. "We're Only Gonna Die"
2. "Latch Key Kids"
3. "Part III"
4. "Faith in God"
5. "Fuck Armageddon...This Is Hell"
7. "Into the Night"
8. "Damned to Be Free"
9. "White Trash (2nd Generation)"
14. "Doing Time"
All from How Could Hell Be Any Worse? (1982)

My favourite 5 songs are in fat blue.
Drastic Actions definitely stands out from that time period due to its slower tempo, lyrical focus, and darker tone. Easily one of my favorites from the early years!

Same goes for We're Only Gonna Die, the time shifts are awesome. It's a killer song. In The Night is also pretty memorable for that repetitive line. I don't much rate Faith in God or Doing Time, but do appreciate the lyrics. I'd still rather listen to live versions from later in their career for all of these, though. :cool:
 

Forostar

Ancient Mariner
It was awesome to hear all these (some of them last Saturday!) live! Perhaps vocal wise no highlights but Doing Time has a cool and a bit of weird build-up and Faith in God has killer riffs. Very aggressive, kinda dark fast song.

Into The Unknown (1983)
A complete, and absurd 180 degree turn from the debut album, this record feels more like a heavier Genesis or watered down attempt at 60s/70s psychedelic rock. The band decided to incorporate synthesizers and their fans (and band members) turned on them. Since the release of this album, the founding members have done their best to delete it from history. Songs aren't generally played live (beyond the recent "Decades" live stream events) and no one looks back on it fondly. All of that said, in my opinion, this is a more rewarding record than the debut. Greg finds his voice here and the band learns that they can utilize acoustic guitars and time signature shifts. Also, The Dichotomy is a cool tune.
I think the band was so ashamed and disappointed when they found out how the fans thought of it, that they tried to put it under the carpet as soon as possible. In 1983 they did play songs from it, but without keyboard. That's why it was so cool when Graffin took his keyboard and used it for the first time last Saturday. Man, that was the highlight of the set with that metallish intro and that combo of "…You Give Up" and "It's Only Over When…" rocked as hell. Gallop!!

I think it's naive but also very nerdy and cool that they made this 180 degree album at such a young age. It shows what Brett and Greg were into already. They did what they want, even if that cost them fans and band members. Glad they did not make a habit out of it though. ;)
The Dichotomy is indeed a cool tune. Probably my favourite. I like it more than the live version they started to do in 2019. It's longer and more instrumental. Other favs: "It's Only Over When…", "Time and Disregard" and "Losing Generation".
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
Suffer (1988)
Everything comes together here. Bad Religion fully embodies the sound that they will replicate for the rest of their career (while also continuing to write longer tracks in the future). It's a fast, furious, over-before-you-know-it record with some killer vocal hooks, bombastic songs, and a whole ton of energy. The production (by guitarist Brett Gurewitz) is also quite good. Songs like 1000 More Fools, When?, Best for You, Suffer, and Do What You Want are blistering tidbits of melancholic punk. I'd place Give You Nothing and Land of Competition in the ranks of the band's best, but honestly, the whole album is great from start to finish (which occurs in just over 26 minutes).
 

Zare

Automaton Sovietico
In We're only gonna die, right at the verse riff you can hear how they play 10.000 times better than most of the punk bands of that era. The riff is not palm muted, the beat is loose, yet the execution is precise, the powerchords are fast and then the open chords are always on the right spot.

I always liked their guitar parts because they're truly punk rock in the sense of where they came from, and are played correctly. Again most of the punk explosion was 'heavy metal played badly' as Di'Anno put it meaning the beats and riffs came from hard rock, punks then slapped agression on top of it but with close to 0 musical articulation. At least for me Bad Religion is the antipod of that, using rock and roll idioms inside a band that can really play with a singer that can really sing. And then the lyrics are superb.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
In We're only gonna die, right at the verse riff you can hear how they play 10.000 times better than most of the punk bands of that era. The riff is not palm muted, the beat is loose, yet the execution is precise, the powerchords are fast and then the open chords are always on the right spot.

I always liked their guitar parts because they're truly punk rock in the sense of where they came from, and are played correctly. Again most of the punk explosion was 'heavy metal played badly' as Di'Anno put it meaning the beats and riffs came from hard rock, punks then slapped agression on top of it but with close to 0 musical articulation. At least for me Bad Religion is the antipod of that, using rock and roll idioms inside a band that can really play with a singer that can really sing. And then the lyrics are superb.
All of this x 1,000!

To me, their style of punk rock sounds so much more rooted in rock and roll than pure punk (or metal). They play tightly (especially the guitars), have solos, and know how to construct precise, catchy vocal harmonies.

I am not a fan of most punk rock, and certainly not any of the traditional or original punk rock bands, but I am a Bad Religion fan.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
No Control (1989)
The band speeds things up even more and takes a more aggressive (and occasionally atonal) edge. Apparently this is considered one of the peak albums of "hardcore punk". I can say that I don't like it as much as Suffer, which I find to be ultimately more melodic and memorable. Still, there's a lot to love here. The first two tracks are super fun, I Want To Conquer The World, Sanity, and Anxiety are some of my favorites, and You is a classic. I'm not a fan of Sometimes I Feel Like or the terrible edit job on Automatic Man, and there's a few tracks that breeze right by in one ear and out the other, but overall it's a cool record.
 

Forostar

Ancient Mariner
Hmm, I don't think No Control can be called less melodic than Suffer... maybe certain melodies do appeal less than to others or something, dunno.

Rounding up the pre-Suffer era we also have the fine EP Back to the Known (1985), with Greg Hetson on guitar and Brett Gurewitz producing.
Along the Way is the iconic track but the whole thing is a nice ride.

When I heard Suffer for the first time, I had to get used a bit to the idea of a band doing so many songs in the same tempo, it felt a bit samish. There was a lesser amount of striking songs than on later albums I had heard. But then (besides the lyrics of course) I really started to get into all these individual songs with their own cool vocal lines, roaring guitars, and sometimes neat little solos. Early favourites, and still among the best are for me: 1000 More Fools, How Much Is Enough?, Best for You and the phenomenal title track. But nowadays I like the others also very much.

No Control might be the best Bad Religion album of the Pete Finestone era (roughly: pre-Generator era; although another drummer, Jay Ziskrout played on most songs of the debut album and the first EP, and there was Davy Goldman doing the drums on Into the Unknown).
The roaring guitar sound is just perfect as is the balance of the mix (volume of drums, bass, vocals). There is such an energy, great vibe.
Favourite songs are Billy (awesome verse melodies and that guitar line after the first chorus, so deep... :notworthy: ), Sanity (bloody great overall), It Must Look Pretty appealing (superb chorus!), I Want to Conquer the World (another brilliant chorus), the aggressive Big Bang and naturally the amazing title track.

edit: perhaps a few No Control songs have a less melodical section (e.g. chorus Sometimes it Feels Like, but I'd say there are more songs with striking (and catchy) melodies than on Suffer.
 
Last edited:
Top