I recently finished reading yet another band biography.
I barely qualify as a casual fan of Bad Religion, but if there’s a book about a punk rock band, any punk rock band, I’m eventually going to read it. This particular tome turned out to be quite interesting. Bad Religion has been around for 40 years, so there’s a lot of history to cover. The band’s lead singer has a PhD in Zoology and has taught at UCLA and Cornell. The guitarist co-founder also started — and still runs — a very successful indie record label called Epitaph.
The book came out last August. I was struck by how prescient a few of the band’s songs were. Check out this passage, about a couple of tunes that came out two years ago:
We certainly experienced “Chaos from Within” on January 6th of this year… and it was fueled by “the Paranoid Style.”
But not all Bad Religion songs are focused on American politics. Their lyrics touch on other heavy topics such as religion, society, the media, science… you name it.
Waaay back in 1996, they released an album called The Gray Race that sounded the alarm about the global crises that can only be averted if we realize that the survival of the human race calls for cooperation beyond national borders. “We’re all in this together…”
One track on that album, “Punk Rock Song” sums up the challenge quite well in its final verse:
It certainly gives us pause to ponder. Not bad for a song that’s less than two and a half minutes long.
Bad Religion released a new song last Thursday. 41 years into their career, they’re still challenging us to think for ourselves.
“I think the song really is a celebration of enlightenment values that can be cultivated through enthusiastic learning and open-mindedness,” says vocalist Greg Graffin in a statement.
“So often we’re told what to think. But learning how to think (as opposed to learning what to think) is a true feeling of emancipation from the constraints of indoctrination that are so commonplace in our society.”Greg Graffin, Bad Religion