Pardon the Aggravation: Scene Music Junkies Square off on Bad Religion:
by Joe Tone
on Wed, Oct 10, 2007 at 3:57 PM
Bad Religion visits the Agora Ballroom (5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-6911) Thursday, October 11.
The band’s been in business since 1980, but the run hasn’t been all wine and roses. Some say Bad Religion is one of the best punk bands ever. Some say it’s the worst.
The group came together in the original Los Angeles hardcore scene, but never broke out of the junior varsity, opening up for bands like the Circle Jerks. Filled with epic keyboard jams, the band’s acid-damaged second LP, Into The Unknown, destroyed their momentum and sapped what little credibility they had in the old-school scene.
The band would recover, and once the era’s big-dog hardcore bands broke up, Bad Religion issued a well-received series of releases on its own Epitaph label -- then just a little indie run by guitarist Brett Gurewitz, now a major force in the industry, home to a diverse roster including Tom Waits, Neko Case, Sage Francis, and some mall-punk emo puds. In the meantime, Bad Religion survived punk’s various waxing and wanings.
By the 90s, they were respected elder statesmen. As alternative music broke large, they even spent a stint on major-label Atlantic -- once home to Led Zeppelin -- where they issued singles like year’s “21st Century (Digital Boy)” and “A Walk.” The latter track can alternately viewed as an incendiary political allegory (with lyrics like “And who the hell are you… you probably can’t tie your own pair of shoes”) or a thinly veiled reference to masturbation (with lyrics like “I’m gonna use my hands / And I’m gonna use my mind”). High school kids were endlessly impressed with the band’s big vocabulary (vocalist Greg Graffin has a Ph.D in Biology and teaches at UCLA), and by the century’s end, the band was iconic to the generation that had made the Warped Tour big business. ....
Now the band is on the road supporting New Maps of Hell, a well-received disc that fans are hailing as the final installment of the band’s second trilogy of classic punk records. Others, however, maintain that nothing is more boring than solid, competent punk-rock. Scene’s Matt Gorey, a big fan, wrote a preview of the show in this week’s Scene. Before he wrote the piece, he brainstormed a little with Scene’s D.X. Ferris, who’s not a big fan.
To give you a behind-the-scenes look at how a Scene piece takes shape, C-Notes hereby presents the back-and-forth debate that helped inform Gorey’s story. If you’ve ever suspected that Scene music writers just sit down and run their fat mouth when they write, you’re wrong: A lot of thought and idle shit-talking takes place before we sit down and run our fat mouth.
>>> Matthew Gorey 09/12/07 5:18 PM wrote: >>>
For this Bad Religion show preview I’m writing, I'm trying to work in "more brains than NOFX, more grit than Rancid and waaaaaaaaaay more fucking substance than those morons in Social Distortion" or some variation on that theme. Does that sound like a good angle?
>>> DX Ferris 09/12/07 5:25 PM wrote: >>>
You might as well be wrong, with the rest the meatballs in that Teen Beat shit you read. Yeah, that's what punk rock should be: A trip to the fucking library. What do those yahoos in BR ever really ever say? "Life is unfair!" Pulitzer Prize for Emo for those guys.
I know, you’re thinking, "Dude, they're so punk rock, they talk about antidisestablishmentarianism and shit!” That’s some true hardcore! Whatever, dude. I mean, they have more punk cred than I do, and Gurewitz is a good guy, but they’re C-squad college boys whose success came about solely because they didn't have anything better to do than sing their little Hot Topic punk-rock songs (before there was a word for it), all sanitized and shit, so it wouldn't be too scary. Mike Ness sings good songs about hard living are real life lessons. Bad Religion have become a force in punk because of their superior business acumen, not because of kick-ass music. What the hell was that failed major-label bid, “21st Century Digital Boy”? The worst!
They’re cupcakes. Little Lord fucking Fauntleroys. I bet their real names are Dirk, Lewis, Danyel, Tyler, and Lawrence. If they'd formed five years later, they'd be the world's longest-running ska band. And instead they'd be named Bad Ska. And then they'd have one thing right, at least.
>>> Matthew Gorey 09/12/07 5:55 PM wrote: >>>
You'd think Social Distortion was comprised of a bunch of fourteen year olds. I like how those dudes pretend to be street punk badasses, yet the truth is they're just a bunch of sissies who are really more interested in fashion than music. Even if they do live the "street tough" lifestyle they sing about, they're still glorifying heroin addiction and all sorts of other stupid shit. They only know three chords that they play ad nauseum on their overproduced, edge-less records. At least Bad Religion shows creativity with its harmonies and innovative melodies. Social Distortion does nothing special.
I guarantee you there's a bunch of bands with fourteen year olds in them who sing about being tough and living the "street punk" lifestyle and can only play three chords -- just like Social Distortion is doing in their 40's. Cool guys. If that's what punk really is, then punk is worse than ska. Plus, Mike Ness' nasally delivery is the precursor to every vocal line uttered by an emo band. Social D seems so contrived and phony. Good Charlotte is the Social Distortion of the 00's.
>>> DX Ferris 09/12/07 5:58 PM wrote: >>>
You don't actually know anything about Social D, do you? As for Bad Religion, like I said: If they’d formed two years later, their logo wouldn't be an anti- circle around a cross -- it'd be around a trombone.
>>> Matthew Gorey 09/12/07 6:02 PM wrote: >>>
I know enough about Social Distortion to know that they suck balls and they are boring as hell. If those guys could play just one iota less, they wouldn't qualify as musicians.
That's a bunch of crap about Bad Religion. Microbiology is cool.
Click here for an expanded version of Gorey’s interview with Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley.